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.
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.
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
- Season pork generously with salt and black pepper, let rest at room temperature for an hour.
- In a heavy bottomed pan or casserole dish (that has a lid), melt lard on medium-high heat.
- 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.)
- Add garlic, bay and juniper berries, reduce heat to low. Add wine and cover pot.
- 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.
- Turn heat off, let meat cool. Remove bay leaves and juniper berries.
- Using a fork or potato masher, shred meat pieces.
- 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.