Rillettes are an entertainer's godsend. They're cheap, they're delicious, and they sound fancy. Most importantly, they seem like the kind of thing that takes a lot of skill and training to make, and yet nothing could be further from the truth. It's hard to think of an hors d'oeuvre that's easier to make in bulk. If you've ever wanted to dip your toes into the waters (or should I say warm rendered fats?) of French charcuterie, or if you're really in the mood to impress your friends and family with little to no effort, rillettes are the place to start.
Why It Works
- Slow-roasting the pork in its own fat (the confit method) tenderizes it without diluting any flavor.
- Using the stand mixer creates a nicely emulsified, well-whipped mixture that spreads easily.
- Yield:Serves 12 to 16 as an appetizer
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:4 hours, plus at least 2 hours chilling
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (about 1kg)
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil, lard, or duck fat (120ml)
- 4 bay leaves
- 6 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 large shallots, very roughly chopped
- 4 medium cloves garlic, split in half
- Freshly ground nutmeg, to taste
Adjust oven rack to lower position and preheat oven to 275°F (135°C). Season pork gently with salt and pack into a Dutch oven, roasting pan, or casserole dish. It should fit in a layer about 2 inches deep. Pour oil over the pork (if using lard or duck fat, heat until just melted before pouring over pork). Nestle bay leaves, thyme sprigs, shallots, and garlic in with the pork. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil, transfer to oven, and cook until pork is completely tender and shows very little resistance when pierced with a knife, about 3 hours.
Remove from oven and using tongs, discard bay leaves, thyme, shallots, and garlic. Set a large strainer over a heatproof bowl and carefully pour pork mixture into it. Reserve drained fat and juices.
Transfer pork chunks to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (see note). Turn mixer on to low speed and gradually increase speed to medium, allowing pork to break down and shred. Slowly drizzle in the fat and juices a few tablespoons at a time, tasting in between each addition until the mixture is as loose and creamy as you like it. Season to taste aggressively with salt (the mixture will get more bland as it chills, so add salt until it almost tastes too salty).
Carefully pack mixture into jars, spooning it in a little bit at a time and making sure to remove all air bubbles. Smooth tops of mixture with the back of a spoon, wipe rims of jars with a clean cloth, then pour a quarter inch of fat on top of each one. Close lids and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to a week before serving. Serve lightly chilled with bread or crackers and cornichons, whole grain mustard, and fruit preserves. Rillettes can also be frozen directly in their jars and held for several months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before serving.