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Oh Mon Porc!!! Why Rillettes are the Best

My dear, poor, non-French people,

If there’s anything you have to learn from me and about French food, it’s this beautiful French saying: “Tout est bon dans le cochon”.
Yes, everything is good in the pig (and I’m talking about the animal, right, not these filthy disgusting persons who are often sadly compared to this beautiful and generous animal)…
Most recipes coming from parts of this animal are simply delicious, and as the saying says, every part of the pork is good to eat.

tout est bon dans le cochon

I myself love all things offall, and could talk for years about the roasted pig ears I had in Espelette (or the delicious  deep-fried pork head & trotter sandwich I had at Belcampo in LA Grand Central MarketOui, I love all things American too!).
But then, when it comes to saying what pork dish I reaaaaaaaaaaaally miss here, the one I might crave on lonely sunday nights or busy working tuesdays…  I automatically think of Rillettes.

Charlie Hebdo Rillettes

During 1974 presidential election campaign, awesome cartoon artist Reiser draw this cover of Charlie Hebdo with his famous “gros dégueulasse” character hesitating at the café counter : “there are too many candidates” he says, in front of a typical bar sandwich menu: “Saucisson, Ham; Pâté, Rillettes”

Good old rillettes and a crispy baguette make the perfect sandwich. Traditional French cafés use to serve them along with jambon beurre and oeufs mayo, back in the days before bad and expansive “sandwicheries” conqueered French “centre-ville”, hearts of towns.
When I’m feeling nostalgic, I think of grabing one with my uncle before going to see an opérette at Theâtre du Chatelet on a rainy evening…  So what’s a French and perfect girl sadly living in Sunny LA surrounded by vegans and juicers to do?

Make her own Rillettes of course!

 

Rillettes de porc

IMG_95014 pounds pork shoulder, rind cut off
3 pounds pork belly
4 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons thyme

 

“La friandise la plus succulente, le régal le plus riche et plus souhaitable”.
The most succulent candy, the most desirable and richest treat!

I wish I had written this (along with 120% of what the author of this sentence wrote) because as usual our French and perfect Honoré de Balzac is right.
The great writer (please rush to read Lost Illusions, his masterpiece for all know) and big eater (he would eat 100 oysters alone as an appetizers to celebrate the end of a novel)  came from Touraine, and loved eating one of its specialty, Rillettes de Tours.

There’s a big and very French fight over what city of France makes the best. On paper, the small city of Le Mans (yes, where Steve Mc Queen and other car fanatics raced and still race for 24 hours every year) has won: everywhere in France, in every grocery store, you can find Rillettes du Mans. 

rillettes de tours
But for all my Touraine family and me, of course, the Tours Rillettes are the best. They are leaner, tastier, AND they were the first to be invented, in the 15th Century.

What can I say… As many of my French compatriots would tell you with a huge smile; “Nous n’avons pas les mêmes valeurs“. We don’t share the same values is one of France’s most iconic advertising slogan, and it’s used for rillettes by the way.

The idea is, rillettes are really the typical popular dish. It’s not a fancy charcuterie, never really expensive, and can be sometimes seen as a very “red-neck” pleasure. The reality is that everybody is just “loving’ it”. It’s great on a sandwich, or better on toast, for a apéritif. Serve with cornichons and the affair is in the bag, l’affaire est dans le sac!

When I lived in France, I would buy some very often, and never thought really of how it was done… But now that there’s no charcuterie anywhere near my poor american and perfect house; I have resolved into making my own… And discovered it’s really easy!
Just like many French and perfect cooking secrets, it’s all about time, lots of time, and simmering.. Lots of simmering.

IMG_7252

  • Chop the pork shoulder in big chunks (I buy a big piece of uncut bacon at the butcher, does wonders too). Cut the rind of from the pork belly and chop it in big chunks.
  • In a large French oven (or any cast-iron pot) brown the pork belly over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the meat to soften slowly. Add the chunks of pork shoulder and stir well. All sides should get slightly brown. Cook the meat for about 15 minutes.
  • Cover with cold water, put the lid back on the pot, and cook on medium heat for 1 hour, stirring often.
  • Add salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme.

IMG_9504

  • Reduce the heat to the lowest level, and simmer for 6 hours.
  • After the full 7 hours of cooking, remove and discard the rind and the bones. Turn off the heat and let the pot cool at room temperature. When the pot is cold enough, the fat should float over the meat. Using a spoon, skim the fat out and put it in a separate bowl. Then stir the meat with a wooden spatula. Pour the meat into ramekins. Put in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  • Serve cold, with cornichons, bread, and butter, or in a sandwich.

 

Bon appétit les amis!

 

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13 Comments On This Topic
  1. Marion posted
    March 4, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    If you call Le Mans a “small city”, what do you call Tours then?

    • Cecile Delarue posted
      April 1, 2015 at 12:27 am

      A small city too! But a city that is dearest to my heart…

  2. Thibault posted
    March 5, 2015 at 5:28 am

    Bonjour, article tres intéressant, cependant si vous comparer les rillettes de Tours avec “Bordeau Chesnel” c’est normal que vous les trouver plus grassent celle du Mans. Mais avez vous goûter celle de la charcuterie Cosme ? Du porc 100% sarthois et limitrophe et rillettes médaillé d’or en 2015. Goûter y et là vous pourrez comparer :).
    Cordialement

    • Cecile Delarue posted
      April 1, 2015 at 12:27 am

      Bien sûr que les rillettes du Mans artisanales sont aussi très bonnes… Mais bon, je ne peux tout de même pas trahir ma patrie tourangelle!

  3. T72 posted
    March 5, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Most great cookers will say that rillettes must be greased, please keep an objective culinary analysis for the good of our world.
    Rillettes from Le Mans are the more served in the starred restaurant.

  4. Alain CABANNES posted
    March 6, 2015 at 12:07 am

    Ce livre de Denys Ezquerra qui parle des Rillettes de Tours et du Mans devrait combler votre curiosité et votre appétit des mets savoureux du Val de Loire ;-)
    http://www.editionslibradiffusio.fr/livres/hors-collection/rillettes-histoire-gourmande-d-hier-a-demain-libradiffusio
    Cordialement, LCC

  5. Michel Mantellato posted
    March 7, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Non chère consœur , les rillettes de Tours aux saveurs plus fumées que les rillettes du Mans ne sont pas meilleures que les sarthoises , elles sont différentes . Je me régale des deux en particulier de celles des frères Hardouiin de Vouvray en Touraine .

  6. Denis Dronne posted
    March 19, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Chere Cecile, je suis originaire du Mans et évidemment n’ai jamais goûté les rillettes de Tours. J’ai eu l’occasion de manger des rillettes du Loir et Cher, qui, je pense sont similaires a celles de Tours. Les Rillettes du Mans sont les meilleures, bien sur. J’ai eu vent de vos tribulations par un article dans le Maine Libre que ma mère m’a envoyé récemment. C’est presque la guerre des rillettes! Je réside a Los Angeles et voulais vous informer, puisque vous êtes passionnée par les produits du Terroir Français que nous élevons des Poulets Label Rouge en Caroline du Nord et distribuons principalement sur la Cote Est. Nous élevons aussi des pintades , en bref les meilleures volailles fermières, comme en France. On peut même faire des rillettes avec les cuisses de poulet ou des confits.
    Amicalement,
    Denis D

    • Cecile Delarue posted
      April 1, 2015 at 12:30 am

      BOnjour Denis. You had me at pintades! Vos volailles ont l’air extraordinaires, c’est vrai que ca serait super de faire des rillettes de poulet. Je serais ravie de vous rencontrer pour en parler!

  7. zelie cocotte posted
    March 30, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Hi ! I have discovered your blog thanks to my mum in Tours, who use to read La Nouvelle République !!! I am so happy not to be the only one to defend les rillettes de Tours !!!!! the only real rillettes !!!! Even in Toulouse, people only know rillettes du Mans and do not understand why I defend mine so strongly !!!!! Thank you !!! Laëtitia

  8. MALVINA posted
    September 14, 2015 at 2:27 am

    Bonjour ! Combien de temps se gardent les rillettes préparées selon votre recette ? Merci d’avance pour votre réponse ! Malvina

    • Cecile Delarue posted
      December 14, 2015 at 9:14 am

      Je ne sais pas elles sont mangees trop vite a la maison pour que je puisse vraiment répondre! Mais je dirais 10 jours

  9. Metivier posted
    September 26, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Best rillettes for ever were from Lhomme 72340 and made by Mr Bourdin.
    Rest in Peace mr Bourdin


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