Summer weather is here. Hot, humid weather is here; that means that I’m terribly picky about what I eat. I don’t want hot food but I want more to eat than salads and cottage cheese, or even bean and/or pasta salads. As I’m sure you know from previous posts, I am easily bored with the same foods too many times in a week, and I don’t deal well with leftovers.
I’m a facultative, rather than obligate, carnivore but even in hot weather I do want something meaty (and not necessarily steak or ‘burgers). Ubiquitous chicken doesn’t fill the bill either; I wanted something special.
Finding myself with a surplus of pork spare ribs that were so incredibly tender, and having some excellent broth as well as the fat (yes, the fat) I thought that rillettes might be the answer to my finickey summer appetite for meaty stuff that could be enjoyed cold–and since I’m still trying to do the low carb thing, I thought rillettes might be quite palatable with crunchy green stuff (belgian endive leaves, or the heart leaves from romain (cos) lettuce.
My search for recipes lead me to some interesting web sites: The New York Times, Bon Appetite, Food & Wine, David Lebovitz, and serious eats, to mention some of them. There are lots of variations in the seasonings but the basic ingredients are simple: pork and pork fat. Most recipes called for shoulder or boston butt, but that’s not practical when cooking for one. All very interesting, but I do have a reasonable library of charcuterie books (both hard-copy and on my Kindle) so I thought I should also check closer to home before I made a decision. Plugging “rillettes” into the search function on my Kindle I found lots of other recipes as well. I was amazed at how many references I found.
I finally settled on a recipe was from Essential Pepin): simple and and it’s easy to pick up from where I left my pork spare ribs from the instant pot.
Recipe adapted from Essential Pepin (Kindle location 13172-13197). The instructions are extensive and I’ve merely abstracted the main points. If you’re going to do this, I’d recommend checking the source–even via a trip to the library.
- 3 pounds boneless pork chuck or neck (you should have about 75% lean and 25% fat, cut into 2- to 3-inch cubes.
- 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- In a large heavy saucepan, add salt, pepper, and enough water to cover by 1 inch.
- Simmer very slowly over low heat for about 5 hours, adding more water as necessary.
- After poaching, when the water is almost all evaporated and the liquid has started to sizzle, let it sizzle for about 30 minutes to give a roasted taste to the meat.
- Transfer to a bowl and cool. Refrigerate overnight.
- Crush the pieces of meat (with your hands, between thumbs and fingers recommended by Pepin) or use a flat beater on a stand mixer.
- Put mean and fat in a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat; taste for seasoning. Overseason slightly since seasonings are muted when cold.
- After the mixture is set, pack into small crocks and refrigerate.
- Well sealed these will keep for a couple weeks in the refrigerator or can be frozen.
I had about 2-1/4 pounds of pork left from my spare ribs. Since my pork was cooked in the Instant Pot using the pot-in-pot method, I started at step 3 by pouring off the broth and fat, then reducing those over medium-high heat until the sizzling started, when the broth was evaporate (as well as the splash of sherry that I decided to add).
I returned the meat to the pan and allowed a bit more evaporation, and did the 30 minutes of sizzling, and then followed the rest of the instructions. The sizzling part is really important for the best flavor. The pork flavor is good before this, but afterwards it’s really great. (Be sure to use a really heavy pan or you’ll have pork stuck to the bottom where the heat from the burner was. (This Calphalon pan wasn’t quite heavy enough so I had to do a little scraping to get all the browned pork to mix in.)
I did some extra fresh-ground black pepper (my favorite extra bold from Penzeys) since I wanted a bit more spice.
(While the sizzling was going on I use my Instant Pot to sterilize some mason jars to pack the rillettes in, even though it will be refrigerated. I did do a little crushing while this process was going on–easy with a wooden spoon since the meat was so tender.
After cooling it again, I used the hands-on method to crush the meat since I had seen comments on the texture you would bet if using the flat-flat beater method–OK, messy but texture is important here. I didn’t have quite the ratio of lean to fat recommended so I did a bit more of my own home-rendered lard. After a final check on the seasoning, the rillettes were packed into the jars, and stashed in the refrigerator.
Now I have something meaty for hot weather meals. Yes, it takes time, but it’s really not a lot of effort and the reward is so good. All you need now is some good bread, or if you’re trying the low carb thing some crispy green stuff like belgian endive or romaine leaves.