Recipe: Rillettes de Paris

(By Renee Comet / Lisa Cherkasky For The Washington Post)
Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Rillettes de Paris

Makes about 1 cup

Jane Grigson was a literary scholar and translator of important Italian works before she fell in love with French charcuterie and wrote a book about it in the mid-1960s. She became one of the best English food writers, and "The Art of Charcuterie," the American edition first published in the mid-1960s, is an invaluable tome that has inspired two generations of serious pork lovers. "I cannot pretend that this is quick or easy," she warns, "but the success of rillettes depends on [the pounding in a mortar]. You can eliminate the pounding by dropping the meat onto the fast-whirling blades of an electric blender. This demands judgment, because you must not reduce the meat to a porridge-like slush." In other words, do not use a food processor.

Grigson, it should be noted, researched and wrote this book while living in a dirt-floored gatehouse built into a rock cliff -- not much more than a cave. She had no running water and merely a camp stove. After her death, her daughter Sophie went on to become one of England's most popular food writers.

This recipe, tested using a slow cooker, is adapted from Grigson's. She wrote, "The point of this recipe is the very prolonged, gentle cooking of the pork, so that it is in the most melting condition possible by the time you have finished -- and not dry and sandy." Serve on toasted bread with cornichons.

1 pound fresh skinned pork belly or very fatty pork, such as Boston butt, cut from the shoulder (see box, above)

2 tablespoons fresh lard

1 heaping tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, plus more freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 bay leaf

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 or 2 whole cloves

1/2 to 1 cup water (may substitute beef stock)

Cut the pork into small pieces, about 1 inch square, and place in a slow cooker. Add the lard, salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme and cloves, stirring to combine. Add 1/2 cup water or stock, or just enough to keep the meat from sticking to the pot. Cover and cook on high for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until the meat colors evenly to a pale gold. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 8 to 9 hours or until the meat is very tender, adding more liquid as needed. While the meat is cooking, strain the fat occasionally and reserve, discarding the spices.

When the meat is completely tender, transfer it to a large bowl to cool completely. Use a mortar and pestle to mix the meat until it is completely smooth, adding a little of the strained fat or water, if necessary, to achieve the proper texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to a jar or small crock and refrigerate for about 45 minutes or until completely chilled.

Reheat the strained, reserved cooking fat and pour a little over the rillettes to form a seal. Cover and return to the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Ingredients too varied for meaningful nutritional analysis

Recipe tested by Maryann Haggerty; e-mail questions

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