Wednesday, September 19, 2007
on the hunt for pork fat
the boy went to ireland for a month in the fall of 2004, and that was one of the most miserable periods of my life. not only did i miss him like crazy, but during that time i got a flu shot and then proceeded to have the worst flu ever. i couldnt get out of bed for days, and not having anyone there to dote on me totally sucked ass. the only beacon of light during this time was the arrival in the post of the Les Halles cookbook i had pre-ordered from Amazon. i read the entire book from beginning to end, and sat up in bed and laughed out loud. and when i came across the recipe for rillettes, i just knew i had to make it.
well, that was 3 years ago minus a month, and i didn't get around to making rillettes
until just now.
rillettes is one of those childhood favorites of mine. it's basically a pork spread that you slather onto crusty pieces of baguette. you can make it with other meat, like duck and whatnot, but to me the real thing is made with pig and it is laced with pork fat. so yes, it's not the best thing for you in the world. the boy mock-threatened to call up my kickboxing instructor and inform him of what i've been eating so that my next workout will be a doozy.
so i decided to make this on saturday, and enlisted my buddy zack for some help in finding pork fat. zack told me that the dekalb farmers market sells pork fat, and as much as i love that place it's also a good 35 minute drive from the house (on a good day with no traffic and driving 80 mph). i figured it wouldn't hurt to ask around up here in suburbia if pork fat was available, in order to avoid the trek.
i first asked the butcher at the publix near the house. well, i'm pretty sure he was not the butcher, probably just some assistant wearing a white coat and hair net. so i asked him if he had any pork fat and he looked at me blankly.
"Pork fat? did you say, pork fat?"
"Yes. Do you have any?"
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"Well, you know, pork fat. The bits and trimmings of fat. From a pig." i mean, shit. how difficult is this to comprehend?
another blank stare.
"What do you need this for?"
"Well i'm doing a french recipe."
blank look turned into skeptical look.
"We've got salt pork over there. Is that what you mean? I've never heard of pork fat."
blank look from me this time.
Next! i called Kroger and asked to speak to the butcher, who told me that although Kroger didn't carry pork fat, he was almost positive that Publix did. Nevermind.
Next! i called Whole Foods, where a kind man who actually sounded like a butcher because he knew what pork fat was told me that the pork they receive is so lean they have barely any fat to trim off.
so i decided to make the trek to dcfm, on a saturday at 4:30 pm. anyone who's ever been there knows that although this place is fantastic in every aspect, a saturday afternoon is absolutely NOT the time to go; but i was on a mission and i had pork belly and shoulder bubbling away on the stove and i needed to get back to it pronto. away i went, down 400 and over to 285, a road i never venture on but now i know why. it is totally filled with potholes and assholes. i thought 400 was bad, but i must have gotten used to it. drivers on 285 are a whole different shitlick breed. but i arrived and proceeded to pushy-shovy my way through the warehouse, and i mean this literally, i really did have to pushy-shovy my way through it to the meat department and secured my one pound treasure of fatty goodness.
honestly, it's pretty gross looking. when i got home, i rendered it away on the stove until it released its porky goodness. but the whole idea is gross. just dont think about it. just do it.
while it was rendering, mrs p was pulling the best song and dance from her repertoire. that dog was pacing the kitchen and giving me the long sad face, the one she likes to pull when she's pretending that she's a starving orphan. i am wise to her ways, though.
i'm not posting the recipe because those of you who are anthony bourdain fans already own the Les Halles cookbook, and i have a sneaking suspicion that rillettes is probably the last thing you want to make. but you are totally missing out, man.
but i have two small issues with the recipe as it is. i was a little unclear as to what stage the rendered pork fat had to be for me to add it to the mixture, so i added it while it was still warm and liquidy. and i think in the end i added too much of it. i mentioned this to zack via email, and he wrote back, "I think there is a typo in your email.. you said 'too much pork fat'. This phrase doesn't exist!". the other issue i had is that it wasnt salty enough, so i've added some kosher salt to the finished product.
all in all, it was a nice trip down memory lane for me. one bite, and i was transported back to childhood. thank you, mr. bourdain.