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When a French peasant has a tough goose.

Once considered peasant fare, the hearty meat spreads of France known as rillettes (pronounced ree-ettes) have recently acquired a more glamorous posture. They appear with frequency in trendy delicatessens and on the menus of fine restaurants, competing with more elaborate pates for attention.

But rillettes remain practical and hearty, and their good taste and ease of preparation make them worth considering for everyday as well as special ccasions.

Traditionally, rillettes were a way to use tough cuts of meat and fowl, preserving them for relatively short periods. Meat was cooked long and slowly with fat and a few simple seasonings until it was so tender it literally fell apart. Then the meat was torn into fine shreds, mixed with the richly flavored cooking juices, and sealed under its own fat to keep it fresh-tasting in storage.

Today, most households don't have to worry about how to make use of an old goose or duck. But flavorful, less tender pork is handy, and we have found that the dark meat of chicken and turkey, as well as lean rabbit, is well suited to the following contemporary versions of this old-fashioned dish.

We have adapted some steps from the original method. You can slowly bake these meats in the traditional way, or use the energy-efficient pressure cooker, a tool that's particularly suited to rillettes. And instead of sealing the meats and juices with their own fat, we advocate skimming off the cooking fat and mixing in sweet butter to give the rillettes better flavor and consistency.

Serve rillettes as sandwich fillings or for open-faced sandwiches, to scoop out and serve as a first course, or even as a light entree. The seasoned meat keeps in the refrigerator for up to a week and can be frozen for longer storage. Small crocks of rillettes also make nice food gifts. Port Rillettes

Cut 3 pounds boneless lean pork (shoulder, butt or loin end) into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Place the meat in a 4- to 5-qurt casserole or ovenproof pan and add 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper, 1 clove garlic (minced or pressed), 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme leaves, 1 bay leaf, and 1/2 cup each dry white wine and water (or all water).

Bake, tightly covered, in a 250 [deg] oven until meat is so tender it falls apart when prodded with a fork, about 4 hours.

Discard bay leaf. Drain and reserve juices. Let meat cool; then with your fingers or 2 forks, shred pork. Let juices cool, then skim and discard fat.

With a heavy spoon or your hands, work together the meat, juices, and 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) unsalted butter or margarine (at room temperature) until well blended. Add salt to taste. Sppon into a bowl or pack into a crock or terrine (about 5-cup size) or into small individual crocks (about 1-cup size). Serve, or cover and refrigerate up to a week; freeze for longer storage. Serve at room temperature. Makes about 5 cups.

Pressure cooker method. Place pork, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, wine, and water in a 4-quart pressure cooker. Bring to 10 pounds pressure according to manufacturer's directions and cook for 1 hour. Reduce pressure under cold running water; open pan. Pour off and reserve pan juices; discard bay leaf. Let cool, then shred meat and complete rillettes following preceding directions. Chicken or Turkey Rillettes

Follow directions for pork rillettes, but instead of pork, use about 3 1/2 pounds chicken legs or turkey legs with thighs attached. Cut legs apart if necessary to fit into pan. Also add 1/2 teaspoon dry rosemary leaves and 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots or green onions, and reduce the dry white wine and water to 1/3 cup each. Bake or cook in pressure cooker as directed. When you shred meat, discard skin, bones, and tendons; finely chop shredded meat. Makes about 5 cups. Rabbit Rillettes

Follow directions for pork rillettes, but use a 2 1/2- to 3-pound fryer rabbit instead of the pork. Cut rabbit into pieces if necessary to fit pan easily. Also add 1/2 teaspoon dry rosemary leaves and 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots or green onions, and reduce the dry white wine and water to 1/3 cup each. Bake or cook in pressure cooker. When you shred meat, discard bones. Makes 4 cups.
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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Date:Sep 1, 1984
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