I’ve been in the mood recently to serve a somewhat more elaborate apéritif, tapas style, when we invite friends over for dinner. It’s convivial and frees up last minute cooking time since I then usually skip the first course.
A typical apéritif includes marinated olives. Cherry tomatoes, radishes, or daikon radish depending on the season. Cashews or almonds, which I’ve just learned to dress up by roasting them with some spice. For something more substantial, I’ve often made salmon rillettes or chicken liver terrine. But as I was delving into Moro The Cookbook, I found this Spanish pork rillettes recipe.
French rillettes don’t usually include overt aromatics. They taste like pure, unadulterated pork, in fat. They are delicious. This recipe uses pimentón (Spanish paprika), fennel, and sherry alongside garlic and bay. It’s different from the rillettes I knew; it certainly is no worse.
I reduced the amount of pimentón for a more subtle flavor and added a note about the leftover pork fat, but otherwise the recipe is that of Moro the Cookbook.
2 lbs (1 kg) boneless pork belly
1/2 lb (225 g) pork back fat
6 garlic cloves
1 heaped tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 tsp sweet smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón)
2/3 cup (150 ml) fino sherry
Sea salt and black pepper
Preheat oven the 275°F (140°C).
First trim the rind from the pork belly, then cut the meat and fat into roughly 2 x 1 1/2 inch (5 x 3 cm).
Prepare the aromatics by roughly chopping the garlic cloves; in a mortar, lightly crush the fennel seeds and peppercorns; halve the bay leaves.
Place the pork and fat in a large mixing bowl and add the garlic, fennel seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves, paprika, sherry, and a good pinch of salt, and toss well with your hands to combine. Transfer to a 2 quart (2 liter) earthenware terrine or heavy cast-iron pot, seal tightly with foil so no steam can escape, and place in the oven for at least 4 hours, until the meat is very soft and can be shredded easily.
Remove from the oven and strain the meat in a sieve, pressing with a spatula or spoon to release the juice.
Put the liquid aside to cool, then in the refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and solidifies.
Once the meat has cooled enough to handle, shred between your fingers. **This is best done when the meat is warm rather than cold, as it will become more difficult to shred.** Set aside any pieces of fat that have not melted away (see note).
When the fat on top of the juice had somewhat solidified, spoon it off and set aside. Add all the juice and 2 tablespoons of fat to the shredded meat. Mix well, season with salt and pepper, and put the meat back into the terrine or other earthenware or glass jar. Pack the meat gently and seal with a layer of fat about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick.
Keep in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours before serving, and up to 2 weeks if well sealed with fat.
Note: You could discard the leftover fat, but it seemed a shame to do so, so I placed it in a small skillet over very low heat, letting it melt further. I then strained the fat and kept it in the refrigerator, to be used on bread instead of butter. The pieces of fat that remained solid, brown and caramelized, we ate — just like that.