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Rillettes and Rillons



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Rillettes and Rillons

French Regional Cooking

by Anne Willan and l’Ecole de Cuisine
La Varenne, 1981, William Morrow and Co., Inc.


“ ‘Rillettes’ and ‘rillons’ are very much a Loire specialty, though rillettes, often of indifferent quality, are found in charcuteries throughout France. They date back
at least to the 15th century and are simplicity itself to make. Half pâté, half purée, rillettes are usually made from fat pork. The proportions of fat to lean vary from
half to almost equal. The meat is baked very slowly in a closed pot until it falls
apart, in much the same manner as English potted meat. It is then shredded with
a fork, mixed back into the melted fat and left to set. Very little seasoning is
added – salt, pepper and perhaps a little spice. The rillettes of Tours are leaner
than those of Le Mans, which have quite big and delicious chunks of fat in them.
The best rillettes have an attractive rough texture with none of the glutinous consistency which results from using poor-quality scraps instead of prime meat.
Any fatty cut of meat will do for rillettes, providing it is of good quality; for many years rillettes have been made with rabbit, duck and, best of all, with goose as
well as with pork. Nowadays some restaurants offer so-called rillettes of salmon
and mackerel. These are usually mixtures of flaked fish with butter but, delicious
though they may be, their only resemblance to true rillettes is their slightly rough texture.
Rillons, also called rillauds or rillots, are cubes of pork measuring 5-6 cm/
2-2 1/2 inches after cooking, that are baked very slowly, like rillettes, in a closed
pot. Sometimes the meat is salted and left for a few hours to pickle slightly before cooking, and often bones are left in the meat to add flavour. However, rillons are cooked only until tender, not soft. Like rillettes, rillons need the best pork, and
the ‘blanc de l’ouest’ pigs raised north of Angers are considered particularly fine
for the purpose. Rillons made with ham are a specialty of Vendôme, on the
northern edge of the Loire valley.
In a menu rillettes and rillons occupy the same place as a terrine and are served
in the same way, with crusty bread. Rillons are often preferred hot with fried
apple rings or mustard and with mashed potato; one excellent way of reheating
them is to flame them in brandy, which balances their richness. In some areas
of the Loire, rillons taken with a glass of white wine still form a hearty farmers' breakfast.”


Rillettes de Tours

“Different cities have different versions of this dish. In Tours they are made
of pure pork; half of the lean pork in this recipe is replaced with an equal
quantity  of goose to make ‘rillettes du Mans’, or with an equal quantity
of rabbit for ‘rillettes d’Orleans’. Serve rillettes at room temperature as a
spread for fresh bread or toast; gherkin pickles and black olives are the
traditional accompaniments.”

Serves 12 as a first course

3 1/2 pounds (1.6 kg) lean pork,
including a few bones
2 pounds (900 g) fat pork
5 teaspoons (25 g) salt
2 teaspoons (10 g) ground pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cups (500 ml) water,
more if needed

Set the oven at low (160 degrees C/320 degrees F). Cut the lean and fat pork in 5-cm/2-inch cubes and put them in a large heavy pot. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, allspice, thyme, bay leaves and three-quarters of the water and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cover tightly and cook in the oven, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 hours or until all the fat has melted and is clear. As the liquid evaporates, add more water gradually to prevent the meat from sticking. Rillettes should cook slowly; never let them boil in the oven.
Drain the pork, discarding the bay leaves. Reserve the fat and leave it to cool. Shred the meat with two forks, discarding the bones. When the fat is nearly cold, mix it with the meat; taste for seasoning. Pack the rillettes into glass jars or stone crocks, cover with waxed paper and tie the paper in place with string. Store in a cool, dry place for at least 2 days before serving. If sealed with a layer of melted lard, rillettes can be kept for up to 2 weeks.


Rillons, Rillauds or Rillots

Serves 10 as a first course

“ ‘Rillons d’oie’ are a variation of the classic pork rillons, made
by substituting boned goose meat for the pork in this recipe.”

4 1/2 pounds (2 kg) fresh breast or
belly of pork, without bones
2 tablespoons (30 g) lard or oil
1/2 cup (125 ml) water
1 tablespoon (15 g) salt
Pinch of ground allspice (optional)
1 bay leaf
Pinch of thyme

Cut the meat into 7 cm-/3-inch cubes. Heat the lard in a large, shallow,
heavy-based pot, add the pork and brown on all sides over medium heat.
Add the water, salt, pepper, allspice, bay leaf and thyme. Cover tightly and cook over a low fire, stirring often (but being careful not to breakup the pieces of meat) for 2 hours or until the meat is just tender but not falling apart. Taste for seasoning.
If the rillons are to be served hot, remove the meat from the fat, drain briefly on paper towels and serve. Reserve the fat for other uses.
If the rillons are to be eaten cold, put the meat in jars or stone crocks and pour over enough of the fat to cover it. If well sealed with fat, rillons can
be kept in a cool place for up to 2 weeks.  Scrape or melt off excess fat
before serving.

Featured Archive Recipes:
Rillettes of Pork and Duck
Braised Pork Shoulder with Tomatoes,
Fennel and Olives

Pork Chops with Mustard and
Bacon (Anne Willan)


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