Charcutepalooza Project #10 – Stretching | Confit Pork Cheek Rillettes
Stretching food you have bought that will normally feed 4 to a dish that will feed 6 or more? That’s a cool idea. It takes a little bit of work and some time, but it’s possible! This month, Charcutepalooza-er’s have been making chicken galantines (my post on that is up next week!), where one takes a chicken (one chicken) and feeds six people. How is it possible? It’s not that everyone gets a miniscule piece of meat. By applying some basic charcuterie technique, one can use the skin as a casing, the bones in a stock, grind up the dark meat into a pate, sear the breast and encase it within said pate, then roll up in the skin, and then poach in the stock. You basically have a roulade that can now feed more people than if you just served say, a roasted chicken.
I decided to make both a confit and a rillette. A confit is simply any meat cooked in fat – the fat could be butter, oil, lard, suet, etc. A rillette is a “spread”, where the cooked meat is shredded and blended with fat before being put in a container and covered with fat to preserve it. The cool thing about fat is that it brings major flavor to the party. In addition, it keeps oxygen out, so the meat can stay for a long time without spoilage.
I was over at the market last week and talking to my friend, Weldon. I asked him if he had any hog jowl, and he said he had some huge ones (like 4 lbs worth!) I took ’em and went immediately to the kitchen. At first, I was just going to make a dish with pork cheeks before I realized how awesome this would be as a rillette. You see, when I went up to Philadelphia last year, I saw a dish on a menu – “Milk Braised Pork Cheeks | Polenta | Fried Egg”. I was sold on recreating this dish – but it will have to wait for another day. We got charcuterie to make, people!
Since pork cheeks have a lot of fat, I slow roasted it in the oven at like 275 degrees for almost 11 hours. It just sat in the oven for most the day – once enough fat rendered, I added some garlic and rosemary to the pan to flavor the pork even more. The skin became incredibly crisp – like cracklins. I shredded the meat off.
I took a bit.
It was heavenly. Moist, juicy, flavorful, tender. My dad and I kind of had a picking party for a few minutes.
I strained the fat until it was clear – and even used it to make this pork fat roasted chicken! I also made some of my morning eggs in pork fat. Delicious.
Making the rillette then, was pretty simple. Into the stand mixer it went. I added a little bit of fat until the meat pulled apart into shreds. I then put it in a couple of mason jars and sealed it with fat before sticking it in the fridge. Voila. It was that easy. Just sitting around watching football all day, while it cooked, was pretty nice.
All rillettes, confit, and most charcuterie projects scream for some acidity and freshness to balance the richness and fattiness of the meat. I actually served this at a Nashville Food Blogger’s potluck, which was at my house! And, we pull out all the stops for our fellow foodies. In fact, Lannae had a great recap, here.
I made a little mustard (with dijon and spicy brown mustard), a parsley salad with lemon zest and red onion, and gherkins! Pickled anything with charcuterie is a win. And bread. Great, amazing, crusty bread.
It was a dish I really enjoyed eating. I even used it in a pasta (which is probably not completely traditional – but i warmed up the rillette, added some peas and ricotta cheese, tossed in some shells, and showered it in lemon zest and chiles. It was pretty awesome.
At the end of the day, we took a jowl that could feed almost 4-6 people, and ended up serving almost 20+ at the potluck. But to be honest about this stretching thing, I finished an entire mason jar by myself over the course of a few days….
Enjoy your weekend, everyone!