An Adventure in French Cooking
My First Attempt at Making Pork Rillettes
What's a girl to do when The Fatted Calf is on vacation? Where is she supposed to find her charcuterie? Last weekend, when Taylor and Toponia were taking a well-earned rest from the Saturday market, and inspired by Slow Pig Weekend, I decided to take matters into my own hands and attempt to make some pork rillettes.
I don't have a book with a rillette recipe, but I had the internet to search and a French friend who has made rillettes on several occasions. Seeing as I have dinner with the SF French Mafia every Friday night, I took the opportunity to question them on every aspect of rillette making, in English of course. They suggested I use no other spices or herbs other than green and black peppercorns and bay leafs. They insisted I use a wine from Languedoc, the region from where rillettes originate. They suggested I put some bones (ribs) into the mix. They failed to impress upon me the importance of the salt. Pah!
So I bought 1lb pork ribs, 3lb pork butt and one whole 5lb belly of pork from The Golden Gate Meat Company situated in San Francisco's Ferry Building Market Plaza. Belly of pork has to be ordered the day before collection and is only available as a whole belly.
I chopped up the meat into little clubes, separating where I could, the meat and the fat from each other. This took blimmin' ages. Luckily my friend Katja popped by to deliver me some of the famous Voigt Family Secret Hot Mustard, a generous gift to me from one of her friends. So, as I chopped, we drank green tea from Keiko and ate cookies from Farmgirl and passed the time of day as I hacked away at the meat. It certainly made the monotonous task less lonely.
What I should have done at this stage, but only found out once it was too late, would have been to heavy salt the cubed meat and cure it for at least 12 hours. No I didn't do that - but next time I certainly shall. After the fact, I asked Toponia at The Fatted Calf, and that was just about the only thing they do differently to what I did, as far as I can tell.
Into the pan went the meat and the fat and 2 cups of white wine. (Shhh, pease don't tell the Frenchies, but I actually used Italian wine.) I went to the everso helpful Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants to find a "Languedoc wine without much personality", but there were none. All the French wines were too bold so I ended up, instead, with a bottle of Frascati that was pronounced to be perfect for cooking purposes.
I also added a couple of bay leaves, at least one hundred grinds of green and black pepper plus about 20 teaspoons of salt. Twenty not enough. Can you believe that?
The advantage of an electric stove is that you can set the burner at a really low heat. My French friend had suggested the secret of a good rillette is to par-cook it for a few hours on one day, leave it to rest overnight and then continue the cooking process the next day. As I was due to go out in the evening, this suited me perfectly. I cooked it very slowly for 3 hours (be careful - do not let it boil!) and then left it covered, at room temperature over night, before continuing the process the next morning, cooking the meat slowly for another 7 hours until it was meltingly tender.
Once cooked, I scooped all the rendered fat from the top of the pan into a large bowl. Then Fred and I carefully separated the remaining solid fat and the meat, using one of my favourite kitchen utensils, the Asian Skimmer as recommended to me by the lovely Restaurant Whore.
The solid fat was discarded whilst the meat was shredded, using a couple of forks, into a bowl. The meat was then packed into ramekins before being covered with a spoonful of the still-liquid rendered fat that had been reserved from the top of the cooking pan. As the fat cools it hardens into a solid pure lard that seals the rillettes and helps to preserve them.
This recipe made enough to fill 14 ramekins. Luckily it freezes well too. Leave the rillettes to mature a few days before eating or freezing. We serve it on toasted pain au levain from Acme. It has a delicious, creamy, meaty, fatty taste. Of course, with some Maille cornichons and a generous sprinkling of salt it tastes that much better!
PS. Read about my first ever tasting of rillettes here.
PPS. Happy Blog Birthday, today, Alder at Vinography.
Links, Resources and Further Reading
Bay Area Resources:
My Butcher | The Golden Gate Meat Company
Great Wine Advice | The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants
Bay Area Masters of Charcuterie | The Fatted Calf
Market Place Grocer of Choice | Village Market
One of many local places to buy Maille Cornichons | Cheese Plus
The Queens of Slow Pig Weekend | Kate and Diva
Fans of Fergus Blog | Going the Whole Hog
What are Rillettes? | Find out here
Rillettes and Rillons | from Anne Wilan
Check this out | The Potted Meat Museum
Salt gathered by women from the marshes of France | Fleur de Sel de Guerande
The Cornichons we buy | from Maille
Something I stumbled across today | Baby's Head Pudding
The Asian Skimmer | Can't Live without it by The Restaurant Whore
Chocolate Biscotti For Beginners | by Farmgirl at Gather
The Five Pints | With Yorkshire Puddings
Obsession With Food | Salmon rillettes
I Heart Bacon | A Fundraising Dinner Menu
|Archive Alert! On this date in 2005: The Chef's Market in Davis.|
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