Pork Rillettes

pork rillettes

I am decidedly not a superstitious person but there’s a few folk traditions I follow. They tend to be food related, what a surprise! 🙂

I’m not sure if this particular belief exists in other countries, but here it’s considered bad luck to be eating chicken around NYE. Instead, it’s strongly advised to eat pork. As the saying goes, chicken scratch away your luck while pigs root it out for you. So be it!

I am always amazed when I see underrated dishes considered to be the food of the peasants suddenly becoming upscale. It’s what’s happened with rillettes, the poor man’s pâté: once a way to preserve the cheapest cuts of meat, now so gourmet, sold as a delicacy in tiny jars with a big price tag.

I, for one, already loved it before our so-called gastro revolution, when rillettes didn’t have such a name to themselves. Truth be told, I had no clue what I was eating was called a rillette at the time, we called it potted meat. Still.

So, what is this meaty spread?

A confit. Excuse my French: confit is a centuries-old meat preserving method where the cuts are slowly poached in fat. As the fat cools and solidifies, it creates a protective seal on top of the meat, preventing it from spoilage. Food prepared this way can be stored for months.

We do have refrigerators now, but rillettes are so much more than just a way to save meat: they are a perfectly delicious option for hors d’oeuvres, the cornerstone of any charcuterie plate and super convenient to have on hand for entertaining.

It’s guaranteed to wow and better yet, easy peasy to make. I would admit it requires some intuition, but nothing you can’t handle. I made a few bathes experimenting with different cuts of meat and spices to find what best suits my palate, and I guess you’d do the same if you make this recipe. That’s the beauty of it.

I started with pork leg, but it was a bit too lean for this dish so I switched to shoulder which is juicier. Perfect!

Following in the steps of David Lebovitz I rendered the fat for myself first, but found it to be an unnecessary hustle as I have access to quality rendered lard.

As for the spices, salt, black pepper and bay is a must, and then you’re free to test out whatever rocks your boat. My choice is juniper berries and garlic. Lots of garlic. They cook to a soft, sweet, dark amber deliciousness.

Liquid-wise, while a cup of water would do just fine, why not use white wine. Feeling fancy? Get the whiskey or brandy.

When the meat is cooked, you shred it with a fork like you would when making pulled pork, or you can also use a potato masher for the job. When rillette is cool and fat starts to solidify, pack into jars tightly with the back of a spoon to avoid air sockets. Spoon a few tablespoons of melted fat on top to seal, and they are at your disposal, stored in the fridge, for weeks. Take the jar out an hour before serving to soften into a spreadable consistency.

In my opinion, rillettes are best on rustic, toasted bread, accompanied with pickled gherkins, olives, capers and chili flakes.

Pork Rillettes

  • Difficulty: easy
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This French delicacy is a meaty spread full of flavor, perfect for entertaining. Recipe is easy to scale up or down to suit your needs.

Ingredients

500 g pork shoulder, cut to inch-thick slices

400 g rendered lard + a few tbsp to seal tops

10 cloves garlic, peeled

200 ml dry white wine

3 bay leaves

8 juniper berries

salt, black pepper

Directions

  1. Season pork generously with salt and black pepper, let rest at room temperature for an hour.
  2. In a heavy bottomed pan or casserole dish (that has a lid), melt lard on medium-high heat.
  3. Add pork to hot fat, let slices cook on the outsides and color slightly. (Fat should cover meat. If not, add more lard to the pan.)
  4. Add garlic, bay and juniper berries, reduce heat to low. Add wine and cover pot.
  5. Cook on low at a slow simmer, turning slices occassionally until liquid becomes clear, meat pieces are very tender and colored evenly on both sides.
  6. Turn heat off, let meat cool. Remove bay leaves and juniper berries.
  7. Using a fork or potato masher, shred meat pieces.
  8. Place pot in the fridge, stir from time to time as fat hardens. Transfer rillettes into jars and pack tightly with the back of a spoon. Pour reserved fat on top of meat to seal from air. Store in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Love,

Fruzsi

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5-min Creamy Feta Dip

creamy feta dip spread

Hors d’oeuvre? Warm, a little to the East. Antipasto? You’re getting there, but further eastwards. Mezze – now there you are!

Mediterranean mezze or meze, typical in the Balkans and the Near East, is a selection of small appetizer dishes just like the more renowned French and Italian varieties. Hot or cold, spicy or savory, served at the beginning of a multi-course meal or a meal in its own right, meze is a social event – you are not expected to finish every dish, but rather share at ease.

The recipe I have for you today is meze at its best: not only it is a total no-brainer to make, but also ready in under 5 and full of flavor. You might even have all the ingredients at home as we speak, and hopefully also the wine to go with it!

Fact: I am a feta addict (but you already know that). And after careful and completely unscientific observation of people, I came to realize it’s not just me. So meet your new way to obsess over feta cheese: a smooth, tangy spread Greeks call Kopanisti.

Base your end-of-summer party formula around this dip and lots of complimentary fresh veggies (think zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, radishes, celery sticks) and freshly toasted baguette or crusty ciabatta. Seriously, eff those carbs! Just slather on.

So, without further ado, here it is. Because you can never have too many easy, cheesy recipes up your sleeve! 🙂

Creamy Feta Dip

  • Difficulty: easy
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The taste of the Mediterranean in a schmear that’s so so easy to make.

Ingredients

500 g feta or similar white cheese

1 cup sour cream

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

freshly ground black pepper to taste

extra virgin olive oil to garnish

optional: lemon zest, red pepper flakes, crushed garlic

Directions

  1. Use a food processor, or mash feta with a fork in a medium bowl.
  2. Season and mix in other ingredients.
  3. Garnish generously with olive oil.
  4. Serve with warm, toasted slices of baguette or ciabatta, or as a dip with raw vegetable chunks.

creamy feta dip spread

creamy feta dip spread

Love,

Fruzsi

Crème de la Crème: Mom’s Liptauer

hungarian liptauer

Quick and easy to prepare, körözött is a tangy cheese spread very popular in Hungary. Such a word must be close to impossible for most of you to pronounce, but good news: it’s also known as Liptauer (pron. lip-tower).

The name derives from Liptau, German for the Northern Slovakian region Liptov that is also called Liptó, for it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Why yes, it was quite busy around here in the last 1100+ years 🙂

I’m sure after this brief lesson in history it will come as no surprise that Liptauer appears in cuisines of all our surrounding countries. And if you guessed it’s made a little different everywhere, you were right. Let me tell you how much so!

Not every nation, not every region, not even every family, but each household has a very own recipe. Liptauer is a highly personal matter, regardless of the fact that all are variations on the same theme. Now good luck determining the „original”!

One thing that’s sure: the recipe was based on Bryndza, a type of sheep milk cheese but nowadays it’s usually prepared with quark (the same cottage cheese-like dairy product that makes my country’s favorite dumplings).

Liptauer is traditionally eaten on an open sandwich or toast, but is equally delicious as a dip with crackers or raw vegetables. An essential to every picnic basket and a great side to your leftover Easter ham as well.

hungarian liptauer on bread

The recipe below comes from my mother. I was spooning it straight out the bowl not once – that is how deep my love for it goes, but don’t tell her that. She is from VeszprĂ©m county so we could consider it Liptauer à la Balaton-Highlands, but other family members from the same region would surely disagree. So why do I still think it appropriate to raise this one a little above others?

Because we have been asked to share the recipe on multiple occasions and some friends specifically ask us to bring this to potlucks. It must be hard for the uninitiated to understand the full complexity of this high art, but in a country where everyone’s fully convinced of the superiority of their own recipes, this is quite a big deal.

hungarian liptauer

So, Liptauer: seasoned quark with onion, sour cream and butter. Did you just say margarine? I’d heard rumors to that effect but as your informal representative in this matter, I would strongly advise against that. Oh and no cumin in this one either. #sorrynotsorry

Hungarian Liptauer Spread

  • Difficulty: easy
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A tangy cheese spread popular in Central-Eastern Europe.

Ingredients

250 g quark

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black peppecorns, ground

2 tsp paprika powder

1 small onion, or half of a medium one

2-3 tbsp sour cream

1 1/2 tbsp butter, cold

Directions

  1. Peel and very finely chop onion.
  2. Put quark in a medium bowl. Season, add paprika, onion and thin slices of the cold butter. Give it a good stir with a fork.
  3. Add sour cream 1 tbsp at a time, and mix until you reach desired consistency (quark can be creamier or more crumbly depending on the producer and fat content).
  4. Let rest for 1 hour before serving.
  5. Keep refrigerated, but it won’t spoil if you take it on a picnic).

What is your favorite schmear?

Love,

Fruzsi