pork fat and olive oil carry the flavor, the capers go along with the ride ::::
Ugh. Almost over that nasty cold and laryngitis. I can taste and smell again.
Growing up in the Midwest, I have a long-standing love for pigs. I went to a college surrounded by pig farms and soybean fields. Known for being the site of the fifth Lincoln-Douglas debate, the hometown of the renown poet and author Carl Sandburg, and an important railway stop in the late 19th century, Galesburg is surrounded with dilapidated barns and fields striped with gold and green.
Home from college one summer, I found myself suddenly yearning to go back to the dorms one humid night while walking around in my parents’ neighborhood, far from my college campus. My trigger wasn’t the university tests plots nearby, or the clickity-clack of the Amtrak train in the distance. Not even the book of Carl Sandburg poetry sitting on my nightstand from the library. No, it was the visceral, meaty stench of PIG from a nearby farm on the outskirts of town. Some might have olfactory triggers of a boyfriend’s cologne, a grandmother’s favorite apple pie. Mine just happens to be smelly hog.
And so this pork recipe found me jumped out at me from the pages of Fran Gage’s The New American Olive Oil cookbook recently, on the (curly) tails of a nostalgic moment from college. Never heard of a rillette? Neither had I until I found this recipe. It’s a wonderful alternative to a pork chop, dip, or party food — all rolled into one. I know the header photo is, well, ugly. It doesn’t do justice to the flavors. I even tried different lighting and fancy tablecloths but no difference. This pork just isn’t photogenic.
Don’t let that scare you away. I challenge you to not sneak a bite of the cooked meat before shredding. I totally did. Multiple times. No shame.
You need a four hour window for cooking time so plan accordingly.
UPDATE 11/19/11: I scaled up the recipe with 7 1/2 pounds of pork, using half of the olive oil and not using the capers. It was a success with a crowd. I did not pack into crocks or ramekins but presented my group of eaters with two large pans of meat, to serve themselves. Eighteen people (some being children with fair appetites) polished off most of it.
- 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and gently mashed
- 1 bay leaf
- ⅔ cup (5¼ ounces) dry white wine
- 1 cup robust extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons capers
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
- Put pork cubes into a large bowl and mix well with the spices and salt.
- Find a casserole dish to accommodate the meat in one tight layer. (I used my cast iron pot.) Tuck garlic cloves and bay leaf between the pieces of meat. Add the wine and olive oil to submerge the meat. I needed to add a little more oil to completely submerge the meat -- ¼ cup more.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper the same size as the casserole and place directly on top of the meat. Cover the casserole.
- Simmer casserole on top of stove. This took 5 minutes at medium heat for me. Put into oven.
- Bake until meat is very tender, about 4 hours. It should separate easily with a fork and the fat will be very soft.
- Remove parchment paper and bay leaf. Put a colander over a large bowl and carefully pour the meat and liquid into the colander, reserving the liquid. Shred the meat with two forks, transferring to a bowl as you work. Mix in the capers. Mix in the strained liquid. Pack mixture into crocks or ramekins for storage.* Cover and refrigerate. The rillettes will keep for a week in the fridge or one month in the freezer. Bring to room temperature before using. Enjoy with crusty bread or a hearty cracker. It may also be compulsory to make a green salad on the side so you feel a little virtuous.