Everything about football is gluttony. Gluttony for punishment, gluttony for pain, gluttony for glory, a gluttony of pride.
It is not very different for the fans. Gluttony of expenses, obsessiveness and over-indulgence. One doesn’t have to spend too much time wandering around a tailgate or an average football house party to see how the largeness of football permeates everything around it. Oversized pizzas, oversized foam hats, oversized emotions.
Football is one of those rare exceptions the typical American negative reaction to such excess and bacchanalia. Anything around football is allowed, even expected, to be even bigger and indulgent.
What does this have to do with this week’s recipe? Armies of fans spend the week carefully planning on smoking and grilling meats for the weekend. And the end result is delicious. There are few things better than a nice pulled pork butt, pork belly, some brisket and all the sausage you can fit over the fire. But is time consuming. And you’re waiting and waiting and waiting for it to be done. The smell is killing you. Your dog and your best friend haven’t moved more than three feet away from the smoker in three hours. What to you eat in the meantime?
Why more pork of course. It’s football. And you can can have meat before your meat.
Let’s straighten one thing out before we begin though. The other week in comments of either the post about chicken schnitzel sandwiches or smoked salmon cakes I was accused of posting pretty bourgie recipes this season, which made me cringe since I already had this recipe lined up for this month. Except, none of this is fancy. For hundreds of years all of these recipes have been considered peasant food. Just because you’ve been seeing it more in Brooklyn bars with $760 exposed wiring pendant lamps does not take away from the fact this is pretty salt of the earth, normal people snacks. (Unless you only want to eat boxes of Bugles because that’s what normal people do, I cannot help you. Do you think if I could make my own Bugles I’d be sitting here typing this up? No. I’d be making Bugles.)
What’s great about a good pork rillette is that it’s an easy snack you can bring together on a Tuesday night and have ready for the weekend. It takes a minimal amount of effort with a maximum of reward, highlighting the real taste of the pork without losing its essence to rubs and sauces.
You will need:
2 1/4 – 2 1/2 pounds high quality pork butt (like a coppa cut) or pork shoulder, or a blend of the two, cut in to large cubes
2 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
Lard, approximately 1/4 of a cup depending on how many ramekins or pots the rillettes are stored in.
I mentioned using a coppa cut in the ingredients because the last couple of times I’ve made rillettes I’ve used this specific section of pork with great results. It’s the perfect balance of fat and meat for what this recipe needs without a lot of gristle. (It’s also the cut used to make capicola or coppa, my favorite of the Italian cured meats.) The seasoning I use for prepping the meat is not too far off from what I use in my Candied Corned Beef Sandwiches.
Depending on how fatty your meat is before cooking, you may not even need the lard, but it’s a good idea just to buy a little extra clarified lard from the butcher. Plus lard freezes well, so you can save unused lard for making very rich pie crusts or to give to your friends on paleo diets who haven’t used butter in their cooking for quite some time (weirdos).
Heat a large Dutch oven or stock pot over a medium-high flame. Sear the pork in the bottom of the pan without cooking the meat the whole way through, just a minute or two minutes on each side.
Add the water and seasoning, reserving half of the salt and the cracked pepper for later. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cover. Cook for approximately 3 hours, until the pork is fork tender and easily starts to fall apart.
Once the pork cooked, carefully remove it from the pot and place in a large bowl. Allow the meat to cool enough until it safe enough to handle and then gentle start to shred with forks, removing any gristle and peppercorns that might have made their way up into the meat (it happens) as you go. Once you start to get to it going from being a course shredded meat to a finer shred, add the cracked pepper and the remaining salt. Keep shredding until it’s a fine texture and taste for seasoning, adding a touch more salt or pepper if needed.
Since a large vat of pork is a bit unwieldily for storing and serving, pack the meat firmly into several smaller ramekins or jars, glass or ceramic; nothing metal that could react with the pork. As you pack the pork down, you notice the fat creating a nice little seal around each bit of meat as you push out the air. Perfect.
Gently melt a small amount of lard in a saucepan and then carefully pour it over each rillette to seal in the meat. Allow the lard to cool and then cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap.
This is tough part. Put in the refrigerator and allow to rest for at least two to three days. AT LEAST. A rillette on the first day hasn’t fully developed its favor and day two is better but not really there, but day three is where the money starts to happen. Do not worry about waiting too long. Pork rillettes, if properly sealed, last a couple of weeks in the fridge.
When ready to serve, allow the rillettes to start to warm to room temperature at least 30 minutes.
On its own, the pork rillette is near simple fatty perfection. Of course, it’s always fun to mess with perfection and used some added accoutrements to cut through the richness of the pork. I like to serve my rillettes with stone ground mustard, sliced cornishons, pickled vegetables, raspberry preserves and my favorite, smoked sea salt. Just a couple of flakes of the smoked salt brings out the earthiness of the pork and picks up the herbs the meat had cooked in.