Shredded meat and fish things


"just add toast and maybe a blob of fruity chutney. And here's the thing: with well-sourced ingredients, the pâté you make yourself (even the first one) may well be better than anything you've ever paid for."

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall


I"m not really talking about pâté here. My starting point is rillettes, and specifically the rillettes that Guillaume Brahimi made as part of his Plat du Tour program - the one on charcuterie. His was made from duck - specifically the legs, that he had left over from making confit - well we all do that don't we? At least every other week!


Nevertheless it is worth noting that rillettes are indeed very easy to make. Not quick, but easy. You can watch Guillaume making his here.


Rillettes are made from slow-cooked, fatty meats, shredded and packed into a pot to be served on toast - or bread. So how are they different from other things like pulled pork and potted meats? On the left pulled pork, in the centre potted beef from Kate Young and on the right pork rillettes from Anthony Bourdain.

I think the cooking methods are very similar - slow cooked juicy meat although the pulled pork seemed to encourage the removal of any fat, and was cooked with a dry rub rather than with liquids, whereas for rillettes at least the fat is crucial. There should be oodles of it. The potted meats from Britain seem to use butter rather than the meat's own fat, but not always. Pulled pork is generally used somewhat differently too - in sliders and sandwiches, straight away, whereas the potted meats, tend to be served on toast and are meant to preserve the meat.


I adore rillettes. It's one of the first things I buy when I go to France. The massive charcuterie section of the French hypermarkets is a wonderland of treats, and my other friends tend to go for the terrines and pâtés but for me it's the rillettes. They are not as mushy as the pâtés and besides those tend to be made from liver and I'm not a huge fan. Too rich for me. But the rillettes, are moist and very tasty, because, like the terrines, they include other things. The meat is cooked, almost under fat, very slowly but with various additions - bay leaves, thyme and brandy seem to be the most common, shredded, not pulverised or chopped and then pressed into a pot along with the fatty juices and finally covered with fat to preserve it. Very easy, if slow:


"One of the most appealing things about this kind of cooking is that, though the dishes look impressive, they're very easy to make, so it's maximum kudos for minimum effort. OK, they do take time, but that gives you an excuse to hang out in the kitchen listening to the radio while giving the impression that you're very busy. None of the steps is difficult, though. When you're done, you'll have the makings of an easy, near-instant lunch, a delicious treat to take on an autumn picnic or, for the nervous entertainer, a highly impressive first course that you can make ahead – no "serve immediately" knuckle-blanching fear here." Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall


Or a gift for a friend when we're allowed to visit again.


I'm not going to give you many recipes here - it's one of those things that once mastered, you can adapt to suit yourself. Pinterest has dozens of different versions. These days people make rillettes with various kinds of fresh and smoked fish too Here's a gallery of pictures to tempt you - fish rillettes I have to say are even simpler than the meat ones.

The first one is from Alla Wolfe-Tasker of Lake House in Daylesford, the other two are from delicious.


The potted meats - usually beef it seems - this one is from the Hairy Bikers are from Britain but really to me it looks just like rillettes.


I guess it is yet another of those very ancient ways that people used to preserve every last scrap of meat that they had in a simple way. The name rillettes by the way comes from the old French rille meaning a slice of pork. Put 'ettes' on the end and you have a diminutive - little slices of pork.


Elizabeth David, of course, has a classic recipe - that's hers at the top of the page, so perhaps I will give you that one. It's a no frills, no nonsense version that you could easily build on - but then again, maybe you shouldn't.


RILLETTES

750g-1kg belly of pork, with a good proportion of lean to fat. 1 clove of garlic, a sprig of fresh thyme or marjoram, salt, pepper, a pinch of ground mace.


Remove bones and rind from the meat, and cut it into small cubes. Put these into a thick pan with the chopped garlic, the herbs and the seasoning. Cook on a very low flame, or in the slowest possible oven at 140℃ for 1 1/2 hours, until the pieces of pork are quite soft without being fried, and swimming in their own fat. Place a wide sieve over a bowl, and pour the meat into the sieve so that the fat drips through into the basin. When the meat has cooled, pull it into shreds, using two forks. If you cannot manage this, chop the meat. But unless you are making rillettes in a large quantity, try to avoid using the electric blender. It gives the meat too compact and smooth a texture. Pack the rillettes into a small earthenware or china pots, and seal them with their own fat. Cover with greaseproof paper or foil.


In spite of the weather today, spring is just around the corner and summer too, so cold platters of rillettes and cheese, and grilled veggies could be a nice way to share a meal - even if it's only with your other half.


So forget the trendy pulled pork and go for rillettes instead.



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