Rillettes de porc

One of my favorite ways to while away a rainy Sunday afternoon is to browse through my old cookbooks. I have a fairly extensive collection, scattered in different places around the house, and there is nothing so pleasant than finding one of those old tomes that I had forgotten I even have and diving back into its old recipes, a little like happening on an old lost friend on the street and striking up a conversation.

So it was this afternoon. I thumbing through some of my older cookbooks that I keep down in the den and came across an old, yellowed paperback, copyright 1968, entitled Everyday French Cooking. In fact, that plain-jane title is a bit deceiving, as it this little book is, in reality, a translation and adaption of the Nouveau Guide Culinaire by Henri-Paul Pellaprat, one of the most influential French chefs of the last century. I leafed through the book and found a recipe for one of my favorite appetizers of all time, rillettes de porc, or ‘potted pork’. I hadn’t had rillettes quite literally for years, since I lived in Paris in the early 1990s in fact. Seems like yesterday but, I suddenly realize as I write this, it was something close to twenty years now… Can it really have been that long ago? Anyway…

I quickly made note of the recipe in my head—rillettes are actually surprisingly simple to make—and whipped it up at my leisure this afternoon. It takes a long time but practically cooks itself. When it was done, I sat down to munch on a few pieces of toasted bread slathered with the stuff. Taste memories last a long, long time, I guess, because the unmistakable taste and texture was just as I had remembered it: wonderfully and deeply savory, with a creaminess that quite literally melts in your mouth. Served with a nice medium-bodied red wine, I almost felt like I had traveled back in time.

In any event, here’s the recipe: Take a good 750g (1-1/2 lbs.) of pork shoulder, cut up into cubes, and mix it with an equal amount by weight of fat back or best-quality lard. (The authentic recipe calls for the actual fat, which renders in the cooking process, but since I had some very good quality lard around, I used that and it worked just fine.) Season generously with salt, freshly ground pepper, a bay leaf, thyme and—here’s where I parted ways with M. Pellaprat—a few cloves. Place it all in a heavy pot (enameled cast iron works well) and add a good glassful of water. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Now you can continue cooking over gentle heat on top of the stove or, as I prefer, placing the pot in a slow oven (325°F, 160°C. Let the pot simmer for a good 3 hours or so, or until all the water has evaporated and the pork is fork-tender and lightly browned. If the meat hasn’t browned, you can raise the heat so it does for a few minutes at the end.

Let the pot cool down a bit, then strain the meat from the melted fat by turning the pot’s contents into a colander placed inside a large bowl. Remove the bay leaf and transfer the meat into a food processor, together with a ladleful of the rendered fat. Process, using the pulse function, until the meat is nicely minced but still has some texture to it—not yet a purée. Pack the mixture into jars, ramekins or other small containers and top off with the remaining rendered fat.

Let the containers cool completely, then place them in the fridge until ready to use. The fat will congeal and turn a creamy white color, forming protective layer on top of the meat. Use as you would any spread, slathered over toasted bread.

 
NOTES: The seasonings and cuts of meat used in rillettes can vary from recipe to recipe. Pellaprat calls for minced parsley, which I omitted. Some recipes I’ve seen call for cinnamon, nutmeg and/or mace. A few call for garlic or onion. I’ve even seen an intriguing recipe calling for five-spice powder, which sounds delicious. My ‘secret’ ingredient is actually not so secret, as perhaps the best known version of rillettes, from the city of Tours, calls for whole peppercorns and cloves. The traditional recipe calls for some bone-in cuts, from which the meat is stripped at the end of the cooking process. Some recipes call for pork belly, which has ‘built in’ striations of meat and fat, so you can reduce or even eliminate additional fat from the recipe.
Rillettes can be made from any number of ingredients. Goose rillettes are fabulous as are rabbit rillettes. For something a bit lighter, rillettes can be made from fatty fish, such as tuna or sardines. One particularly lovely example of the latter variety are rillettes made from fish are these smoked mackerel rillettes from fellow food blogger and professional chef, Sylvia of Citron et Vanille.

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19 Responses to “Rillettes de porc”

  1. 2 October 2011 at 17:55 #

    @pascalB: Merci à vous, Pascal! Et bon week-end!

  2. 29 September 2011 at 10:21 #

    Bravo, voici de très belles rillettes de porc, j'en fait ce week-end. Merci pour ce partage

  3. 4 October 2010 at 20:51 #

    Thanks, folks! This stuff really is addictive!

    By the way, I served what was left of these rillettes just last night to a young Frenchman who is interning for a lawyer friend of mine. He told me that it was one of the best rillettes he had ever tasted! Now that's an honor.

    @lindaraxa: Do try the recipe–it's so tasty and actually is very easy to make as you will have guessed. The key is using top quality lard or fatback, I think, and the right touch with the seaonsings.

    @Emily Malloy: Wow, in love? Now don't tell your husband! ;)

    @citronetvanille: Sylvia, it's a special treat to get your 'seal of approval'!

    @Drick: I bet you couldn't stop at 2 or 3 bites, but then you knew that!

    And thanks to everyone else who commented. Keep that feedback coming!

  4. 25 September 2010 at 00:56 #

    bravo for the rillettes which are originated of the city of Le Mans where there is also the famous 24 hours car race : but I can tell you it is nothing compared to the gooseand/or duck rillettes you can find in the south west of france ; these are really scrumptious ! cheers Pierre

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  6. 22 September 2010 at 07:21 #

    Tastes good.. Very good, I recommend it to you all !

  7. 19 September 2010 at 18:54 #

    Frank
    now this is comfort food not just for the stomach but for the soul…porc rillettes speak of another time and place to me……thanks for stirring the memories with this wonderful post!

  8. 16 September 2010 at 04:13 #

    Iam hugrry now OMG!!!

  9. 15 September 2010 at 11:02 #

    this has got me going… I mean, it is something I would love to taste right now, just wonderful sounding, maybe two or three good bites….

  10. 15 September 2010 at 09:45 #

    Looks so creamy! Love slow cooking!

  11. 14 September 2010 at 23:47 #

    Oh you mastered the art of making rillettes! félictations! those look just perfect in texture (and I am sure in taste too) and I am glad you did not add parsley nor cinnamon ;o) fabulous job!

  12. 14 September 2010 at 16:05 #

    I think I'm in love…alas, I'm far too happily married. Love, love, love your food revelations.

  13. 13 September 2010 at 12:54 #

    That sounds delicious. I have never tried rillettes de porc, but you have definitely piqued my curiousity. Thanks!

  14. 13 September 2010 at 11:09 #

    *sigh*

    I'm in love.

  15. 13 September 2010 at 06:47 #

    Despite having lived in Paris, I never had the pleasure to try Rillettes de porc. Your recipe has certainly go me curious.

  16. 13 September 2010 at 02:58 #

    I'm definitely making this, sounds great… But I'll wait for a rainy Sunday afternoon… ;)

  17. 12 September 2010 at 22:09 #

    Frank,

    There is nothing, nothing in this world that I like more than porc rilletes. I have always been afraid to make them, never found quite the recipe…Can you believe I have Pellaprats cookbook and never thought of it! Thank you. This is probably the first recipe I will try once I get over this awful flu! You have made it very simple, except why not use two forks to pry meat apart instead of food processor?

    You are so right, we keep looking for new things when there are so many good untried ones at hand. Just found and dusted off the copy I have although I am going to follow your directions for the rilletes. Thanks for reminding me of this wonderful source!

  18. 12 September 2010 at 21:57 #

    Lovely frank. These look great!! Perfect for the weather we have coming up soon in Sonoma.

  19. 12 September 2010 at 21:57 #

    I can just make this one really easy, invite me to dinner let me judge it, nothing will be left, I'd eat the whole thing…hope you didnt have other guests!

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