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.
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 Market… Oui, 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.
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
“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.
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.
- 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.
- 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!