Pork rillettes probably sound fancy, but really they’re the opposite of fancy. Their presentation and rustic, and their flavor subtle. But they’re fabulous!
You serve rillettes the same way you serve a pâté or terrine, with good bread, olives and cornichons. It’s especially good as part of a cheese platter.
But the difference between pork rillettes and pâtés or terrines is that there is no liver included. It’s just pork.
I typically make rillettes in the fall, but after visiting Stéphane in France last May, he served my girlfriend and I goose rillettes not once but twice! I think we begged for them the second time! So I thought it might be okay for me to make them now, in July. Not that I’d serve them outside in 100 degree weather.
Another motivation to make rillettes was that this same girlfriend who went to France with me was going to be visiting me over an upcoming weekend, and I thought it would be a surprise to serve them to her! Just for the memories. If I could only get the same good bread…
1 pork butt, about 7 pounds, bone included
1 onion, quartered
1 leek, quartered
1 head of garlic, halved
4-5 bay leaves
A bunch of parsley
Fresh rosemary branches
Fresh thyme branches
Handful of peppercorns
A few whole cloves
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Season all sides of the pork with pepper and your favorite seasoning salt. Place the pork butt in the bottom of a large and deep pot.
Bring the water in the pot to a boil on the stove. Cover the pot tightly with a lid, then place the pot in the oven and bake for the pork for 6 hours.
Halfway through cooking, turn over the pork, carefully, to ensure it cooks evenly.
Remove the pot from the oven, remove the lid, and let everything cool.
Carefully remove the pork from the broth using large forks and place in a bowl. Then strain the broth and reserve. It makes a lovely base for a soup or a stew.
After cooling completely, place the tender pork and in a bowl of a stand mixer. I got the idea to use a stand mixer to shred the pork from the book, “Charcuterie” by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn. Also include some of the pork fat; it adds flavor and texture. Keep the broth on hand in case you need a little.
Taste the pork and the broth and season if necessary. I added some dried thyme, some salt, and some ground allspice to my pork. The seasoning shouldn’t jump out at you. It’s more subtle, highlighting the pork’s flavor.
Slowly start the mixer at a low speed. Add a little broth if necessary. You don’t want the meat watery, but the broth keeps the meat from being dry.
Try some rillettes on a little toast or cracker to test it. That way, you can season again if necessary, and also adjust the fat and broth amounts. Continue mixing until it’s the perfect texture. It took less than a minute for me to get the desired texture.
Place the rillettes in clean jars, patting them down to remove major air holes. Then cover the rillettes with melted duck fat or butter.
I actually used some duck fat that I’d saved from when I made duck confit, which is why it looks darker than normal. The fat is really just used to preserve the meat in the jars, although the refrigerator will do the trick.
Serve the pork rillettes with bread, toasts, or crackers, alongside a good mustard, olives, and some cornichons. Make sure the rillettes are at room temperature first so they are spreadable!
Stéphane served fresh garlic with the rillettes to rub on the bread first.
Rillettes are kind of the ugly step-sister to a pâté or fancy terrine, but you’ll not care once you try them!
note: You don’t have to turn all 7 pounds of pork into rillettes, unless you’re feeding an army. Any pork left over makes fabulous pulled pork, with great flavor!!!