Pork Rillettes

Pork RillettesBeach Bites
Hitting the beach in the summer is awesome…the sun…the surf. There is nothing better than kicking back at the beach and relaxing. And, you’ll need it because as great as a day at the beach can be, the schlepping of all of the stuff you need is not.

I admire those people who can throw everything they need for a day at the beach into a cinch-sac and head out the door. I am not one of those people. I would like to be—but I am not. I require a chair and an umbrella at a minimum. And, of course, a cooler full of tasty food and refreshing drinks.

Of all the things you need for a day at the beach, I think the food it the hardest because it actually takes some preplanning. Because we head to the beach every summer when we go to Tahoe, my sister and I are now a well-oiled machine when it comes to packing lunch for 10 of us. But, you better be okay with a sandwich and some chips for lunch. That is just our routine at Tahoe.

Before we got married and even for some time after, my husband and I used to spend our weekends sailing the bay either on our own or with friends. Our favorite place to stop for lunch was on Angel Island and I always tried to pack something good to eat. Sometimes we hiked around to the south side and ate on the beach there. (We did that once for Fleet Week. The Blue Angels flew right over our heads. It was fantastic.) More often than not though we would find an empty picnic table or sometimes just eat on the boat. It goes without saying that whatever we brought had to be compact. The sailboat wasn’t that big. And, if you had to haul your lunch around an island, you didn’t want to bring a big heavy cooler. So I got good at making what I call snacky lunches.

Snacky lunches are basically picnics made up of a bunch different things that when you choose a little of this and a little of that make up a rather lovely lunch. They usually consisted of a fresh baguette, a variety of cheeses, assorted charcuterie, cut veggies, some dips or spreads, fruit, and something bite-size and decadent for dessert. Sometimes, if we had a bigger group I would add on an orzo or tomato salad.

Occasionally I would make Rillettes because it is the perfect picnic food. You can spread it on a fresh baguette or crackers and you store it in a mason jar for easy transport. If you are planning on hitting the beach in the near future, give this a try…

Pork Rillettes
Yields about 5 cups
Adapted from Food and Wine

Rillettes is a classic French dish that can be spread on bread and used as a casual appetizer. We like to make pork rillettes in a slow cooker. However, the recipe works well prepared on the stovetop over low heat.

Note that you do need to do some advance preparation including marinating the meat overnight and cooling after the rillettes are finished cooking. A layer of port fat on top of the meat helps to preserve it. Grinding your own spices ensures that the flavors are fresh.

2 teaspoons allspice berries
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Kosher salt
3 pounds trimmed boneless pork butt
10 thyme sprigs 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 quart rendered pork fat

Marinate the pork
In a spice grinder or coffee mill, combine the allspice, peppercorns, and coriander and grind to a powder. Stir in the cinnamon and 1/4 cup of salt.

Cut the pork into 2-inch pieces. In a large bowl, toss the pork with the spice blend until well-coated. Add the thyme and garlic and massage the garlic into the meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Cook the pork
Bring the pork to room temperature. Melt the pork fat in a slow cooker and add the pork and seasonings. Cover partially with a lid and cook the pork over low heat until the meat is very tender (between 4 and 6 hours).

Allow the pork to cool slightly. Then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork and garlic to a large bowl; discard the thyme. Mash the garlic and shred the pork. Discard any gristle. Stir in 1 cup of the pork fat and season the pork with salt.

Carefully pack the rillettes into individual mason jars using a spoon to make certain you don’t trap any air. Smooth the tops of the jars with the back of a spoon, and wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth.

Preserve the rillettes
Reheat the fat and ladle a 1/4-inch-thick layer on top of the pork in each jar. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Discard the remaining fat or reserve it for another use. Rillettes can also be frozen directly in their jars and held for several months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Serve lightly chilled with bread or crackers, cornichons or pickled fruit, and whole-grain mustard. Rillettes can also be frozen directly in their jars and held for several months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

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