Rillettes are simply one stop on the road of poaching meat in fat, but the same method delivers multiple delights.
After having poached your meat in a low oven for a few hours, covered in fat, you can get off at the first stop – tender, sumptuous meatsville for your next meal.
Or, you can ride that train a little longer, put that meat in a glass dish and cover it with the fat. There, now you have confit of whatever type of meat you’re cooking (rabbit, duck, and goose are favourites here). Put that in your fridge or root cellar and there it will stay at the ready. A delicious friend waiting to save the day next time you have surprise visitors or you are heavy with demands, light on time.
But, wait! There’s more! Instead of keeping the meat a la confit, cook it until even more meltingly tender. Then, shred it up with your fingers and some fresh herbs (or use salted, fresh herbs in winter #slowdownfarmsteadherbessalees). Salt it, nibble, adjust seasonings. Pack it tight in glass jars. Cover with melted raw butter, ghee, lard, the leftover pan fat from your phenomenal beef roast you made the other night – who cares as long as it’s tasty and doesn’t come from a vegetable.
Because, in case you haven’t noticed, vegetables don’t have fat until evil sorcery is applied in laboratories and we want nothing of that black magic, do we? No, we don’t.
Those little rillettes jars will live in your cold cellar or fridge for a few months or happily hibernate in a freezer for well over a year.
There you have it – a little demystification for your eating pleasure. There are no recipes needed but if you’d feel more confident following a process the first few times, I’d recommend finding something by the River Cottage online, through your library, or just buy their “Meat” book which is necessary in every kitchen anyway. Read it like a novel and invest time in learning cooking processes then just make your food your own – tasty to your standards.
In the picture is rabbit rillettes. I added a pork trotter and belly to two rabbits. In this case, I didn’t poach the rabbits in fat.
I simply cooked them with very fatty, gelatinous things and some leftover highly flavourful and also gelatinous broth from making headcheese. So a few inches of broth, two rabbits, the pork bits and a morning in the oven before shredding, salting, and flavouring as I mentioned above. Different methods, same wonderful result.
In the military there’s respect and acknowledgement of skill through the term “time in”. We can apply that to all of life, including the kitchen. Learn through doing. Use recipes as guides in processes instead of flavour directives and build your own kitchen muscle. In this time of fake foods and convenience, we need more than ever, to nourish ourselves and the people we love. Earn your own “time in”.
As bizarre as it is, it’s now an act of rebellion to care about what we consume. And that’s not just food. What we ingest builds the people we are. I don’t want to be a human built of plastic lab tomfoolery. I prefer to look to the wisdom of my ancestors with gratitude and humility and hope to cultivate even a fraction of that good stuff.