Bits and Pieces

Pork belly in convenient snack form

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We're all for snacking by the light of the fridge. But Jennifer McLagan's rillons are replacing our typical leftovers with delectable pieces of caramelized pork belly. Served warm or chilled, rillons are commonplace in parts of France, where they are served large, cold and submerged in seasoned fat. McLagan, whose newest cookbook, Odd Bits, is devoted to cooking every part of an animal, seasons the chunks of meat overnight before caramelizing them on all sides. She then slowly cooks the belly until tender and stores the pieces in their fat. McLagan suggests reheating and flambéing the rillons in brandy–a delicious option if only our midnight snacking habit could be halted long enough.

Recipe adapted from Odd Bits by Jennifer McLagan (Ten Speed Press)

Rillons
No Ratings
Served warm or chilled, rillons are commonplace in parts of France, where they are served large, cold and submerged in seasoned fat.
Servings
12
pieces
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon quatre épices or ground allspice
  • 2¼ pounds boneless pork belly--skin removed and discarded, belly cut into large cubes
  • About ⅓ cup lard
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon hot pimentón 
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup water
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Optional Ingredients
  • Brandy (optional)
Directions
  1. In a spice grinder, combine the sea salt and quatre épices. Grind until well mixed and the salt is finely ground. Place the pork belly in a large bowl and sprinkle the cubes with the seasoned salt. Toss, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the pork from the refrigerator. Discard any liquid and pat the pieces dry. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the lard. Add the pork belly and cook until dark and caramelized on all sides, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer the pieces to a Dutch oven just big enough to hold them in a single layer. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf and pimentón. Carefully strain the fat from the frying pan, leaving behind any debris, then pour the fat over the meat. Add the wine and water and season with pepper. Place the Dutch oven over medium heat and bring the liquid to a simmer. Transfer to the oven and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
  4. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F. Check the amount of cooking liquid in the pan: It should be about halfway up the pieces of belly. If it's not, add some of the remaining lard and, if necessary, a little more water. Cover the pot and return it to the oven; cook, stirring a couple of times, for another 2 hours or until the pieces are very tender. Let them cool in the pan slightly.
  5. You can eat the rillons warm right away or let them cool to room temperature. They will keep, in the refrigerator, for up to a week. To keep the rillons longer, transfer them to a clean container and strain the cooking fat from the pan over them. Melt the extra lard and pour enough of it over the rillons to cover them completely. Cool, cover and refrigerate in the fat.
  6. To serve, remove the rillons from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature until you can easily remove them from the fat. Place them with some of their fat in a frying pan over medium heat and cook, turning until heated through and crisp on the outside. Add a slug of brandy and flambé, then serve.
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