The Nasty Bits »

Recipes and stories for everything but the oink.

The Nasty Bits: Graisserons

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[Photographs: Chichi Wang]

Sometimes when I look into the freezer I come upon small bags of animal parts strewn about, like half-eaten pieces of chocolate sitting dismally in their paper doilies. One pig's foot here, another pig's tail there. Maybe a few errant gizzards that, late one night, slipped out from a plastic bag while I was digging around for pints of ice cream. I can't be the only person who has this problem, but sometimes it feels that way.

For years what I did was throw in whatever parts I had to whatever soup I happened to be making. Not a bad strategy at all, considering the broth-enriching powers of a trotter or tail. But every once in a while, a more thorough cleansing is in order, which is when I get out my pot of fat and put everything worth confiting in there.

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Graisserons, which I understand to mean "large fat things" in French, are what happens to the skin and other fatty bits in a pot of confit. As the meaty bits tenderize, the fattier pieces render out, leaving behind slippery scraps or semi-browned crisp bits, depending on how hot and long you cooked your confit.

Usually, there's not enough of them to make a meal, so you scrape them into a bowl and squirrel them away for a little pre-dinner snack of confit before you prepare your meal of confited things. Sort of like the way you pick at the pan for sticky pieces of skin and meat after you roast a whole chicken.

It would never have occurred to me to try making a whole pot of graisserons, but cooks far wiser than me did just that, and I have been so pleased with the results that for years now I've been confiting many more pots of graisserons than whole duck legs.

The idea is to simmer a mixture of meats with a mixture of textures in a pot of fat, just as you would for confit. You can coarsely grind some of the meats and mince others. You can add in gizzards and hearts if you have them. Usually, I use a mixture of fatty pork, trotters, dark duck meat, and gizzards, but I've also added pig's tails, pork neck, goose neck, even smoked turkey necks. That the recipe is so forgiving and so tolerant of a variety of meats is only one benefit. It also happens to be very good, owing to the variety of dark and fatty meats you put in the pot.

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When everything had been stewed in fat, you mash it up a little as you do when you're making rillettes, which are potted meats that operate more or less on the same principle, except that rillettes are made with the meatier portions of the confit, while graisserons are made with the remaining scraps. Once mashed, the graisserons can be molded and sealed with fat, in ramekins or jars.

You can unmold the graisserons and eat it as you would any sort of charcuterie product, with lots of crusty bread, or, depending on how much stock you put into the mixture, you can scoop it onto bread or crackers as you would rillettes.

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