I had one of those problems that really wasn't a problem last week: what to do with 1.5 pounds of pork belly? Originally, I wanted to buy a pork shoulder from Marin Sun Farms, but by the time I went the farmer's market, they were out of that cut. Since I wanted to buy some meat for the week, I grabbed a packet of fresh pork belly instead with the intention of making thit kho, a Vietnamese dish consisting of caramelized pork and eggs.
I had a last minute change of stomach when it was thit kao making day, and instead decided to make a pork rillette. Whenever we order the Butcher Block at Wood Tavern, some sort of rillette is featured, and while I know the cured meats take some dedication, the rillettes seemed like an "afternoon project" kind of dish.
Rummaging around my pantry, I found dried apricots, juniper berries, bay leaves, and a cinnamon stick. I also added a few cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a cup of dry vermouth. The pork belly was cut into 1/2" squares, the apricots were chopped, the garlic cloves had their skins removed, and the juniper berries were lightly crushed. Everything was tossed into a cast iron pot with a lid, and the whole thing went into a 250°F oven for 4 hours.
After two hours, the pork belly had rendered enough fat to poach the meat, and after 4 hours, the meat was falling apart. I shredded the meat with two forks, similar to making ropa vieja or carnitas. I added more salt while shredding the meat - the meat should be on the verge of being too salty since this will be spread onto bread.
The shredded pork mixture is strained, with the fat and juices reserved, and then pressed into a dish. I put them into a big baking round, but more traditionally the meat is pressed into ramekins.
The reserved juice and fat is poured back over the meat, the dish is covered and refrigerated for at least 24 hours so the flavors can mingle.
Before serving, let the rillette warm up to room temperature so the fat will be easy to spread. Enjoy it smeared onto a slice of baguette with a touch of mustard and a cornichon.