By Russ Parsons
Los Angeles Times
Making charcuterie is all the rage among restaurant chefs, but with the exception of a few hardy adventurers, the urge to cure hams and sausages hasn’t yet quite caught on with home cooks.
That’s understandable. It’s not something you can just up and decide you want to try. There’s what an economist would call a high barrier to entry — you need to have a temperature- and humidity-controlled space to hang the meat, special equipment and ingredients, and the patience to wait weeks and even months before you can taste it.
But the curious cook does have alternatives. Terrines and rillettes can be made in a few hours with what you already have on hand or can find at your corner grocery. And though they do improve after a day or two of sitting, they really only need an overnight rest before they’re ready to eat.
Probably the simplest to make is basic pork rillettes, a kind of potted meat preserved in its own fat. It’s hard to improve on the recipe Elizabeth David published more than 50 years ago: Cube a couple of pounds of pork belly and cook it with garlic and spices low and slow until the meat is so tender you can smash it between your fingers. Strain the meat from the fat, keeping the fat. Shred the meat into fine bits, pack it into earthenware pots and pour the fat over top. That’s it.
There are all kinds of twists you can play on this basic technique, varying the flavorings. Paging through In the Charcuterie, the gorgeous new butchering book by Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller of San Francisco’s Fatted Calf, I spied a recipe for ciccioli, a kind of spicy rillettes, flavored with lots of garlic and dried chile flakes.
Unfortunately, it had its own barrier to entry: 12 cups of good-quality lard, a bit of a trick to find.
But I remembered a recipe from Cooking by Hand, the lyrical cookbook by Paul Bertolli, the former Chez Panisse and Olivetto chef and current owner of Fra’Mani charcuterie. He made a very subtle ciccioli — no chile, lots of herbs — and instead of binding it with fat, he used a jellied pork stock.
Combining the two ideas made what I guess you could call a spiced terrine. It’s actually not unlike a headcheese, except it’s made from pork butt, which poses obvious difficulties in adapting that name.
Never mind what you call it, it’s delicious. With the pork stock, the flavors come through much more clearly, and I didn’t even miss that added richness you would get from all of that pork fat (I know, I can’t believe I just typed those words either, but it’s the truth).
What’s more, it took just an afternoon to make a big batch. Simmer trimmings and a pig’s foot for a couple of hours, then use that strained stock to simmer the pork and spices.
Cool and shred the meat, beat in the cooled stock a bit at a time. The meat will gradually absorb the liquid. When you’ve got a moist, shaggy mass, pour it into a loaf pan, weight it and refrigerate overnight. The next day you can unmold it and serve it in nice clean slices. (You can also simply pack it into crocks.)
Even without the fat, it’s still pretty luxurious stuff, delicious spread on grilled bread or even served with just a tart green salad as a light dinner. In fact, it likes tart flavors of all kinds: Cornichons, pickled red onions or shallots would also be great accompaniments.
About 4¾ lbs. pork butt or shoulder, with rind and bone
2 tbsp. salt, more to taste
1 tbsp. dried red pepper flakes
1½ tsp. fennel seeds
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
¼ cup white wine
Pork stock (recipe follows)
Cut away the bones and big pieces of rind from the pork and set aside, leaving the rind in pieces as large as possible. The bones will be used for stock (recipe below); the rind will be cooked with the meat.
Cut the pork meat into roughly 1½-inch cubes, including all of the fat, and set aside in a large mixing bowl. You should have about 3¾ pounds of cubed meat.
Grind together 2 tablespoons salt, pepper flakes, fennel seeds and 2 teaspoons black pepper. Sprinkle over the cubed meat and toss to coat evenly. Seal tightly and refrigerate at least 2 hours while you prepare the pork stock, or overnight.
Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Combine the spiced cubed pork and the rind in a large Dutch oven or lidded heavy pot with the smashed garlic. Pour over enough pork stock to just cover, about 2 cups. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove and skim any gray foam that rises to the top, then cover and place in the oven.
Cook until the meat is tender enough to smash between your fingers, about 2½ hours.
Remove from the oven and let the meat cool in the broth for 20 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat and rind from the broth. Transfer the meat to a large mixing bowl and set the rind aside. Pour the broth through a cheesecloth-lined strainer into a measuring cup.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it by hand. The meat should not all be the same size, but all of the large pieces should be broken down. Chop the rind fine and add it to the meat.
Stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, very slowly incorporate the white wine and then the strained pork stock. You’ll wind up with a sticky, very soft mass. Season to taste with more salt, pepper flakes and black pepper.
Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, with plenty left over to hang over the sides. Pour the meat mixture into the loaf pan and thump the pan solidly on the work surface to even the meat and release any air bubbles. Fold the plastic wrap over the top, set another loaf pan on top of the meat and weight it with a couple of cans of food. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Alternatively, you can pack the meat into glass or earthenware crocks, cover with plastic, weight and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, use the excess plastic wrap as handles to lift the meat from the loaf pan. It will come out in one solid piece, like a terrine. If the terrine sticks, run a metal spatula or knife around the edges to loosen the plastic wrap from the pan. You can serve this either sliced as a terrine or in a crock as a spread, alongside grilled or toasted bread.
Makes 3¼ pounds, about 26 servings.
Recipe inspired by Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller’s In the Charcuterie and Paul Bertolli’s Cooking by Hand.
Bones and scraps from 4¾ lbs. pork butt or shoulder
1 pig’s foot
1 bay leaf
½ onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 tsp. salt
4 cups water
Combine the bones and scraps, pig’s foot, bay leaf, onion, garlic, salt and water in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, skim off any gray foam, reduce the heat and cook very slowly to make a rich stock, at least 2 hours. Pour through a cheesecloth-lined strainer before using, discarding the solids. This makes about 2 cups stock.