In the Name of the Father

My wife, a woman of astute intuition when it comes to gift giving, bestowed me with a new book for Father’s Day: “Pork & Sons,” by French chef Stéphane Reynaud.

Published in 2007, it was at the fore of an entire genre of pig-focused cookbooks such as “The Whole Beast”, “The Complete Book of Pork”, “Pig Perfect” and “Pig”, a trend which culminated in a glut of restaurants with names like Cochon and The Spotted Pig and our own Animal here in Los Angeles. Don’t get me wrong, for porkivores like myself, this is a decidedly positive trend. Especially as it carries with it a subtext of two very UnAmerican concepts — non-waste and ethical treatment of animals.

Far from the devasting industrial pork farms of Iowa, “Pork & Sons” opens on the high plateaux of the Ardeche in France at 7 a.m. on a snowy February morning with a pig killing. Says Renaud: “It is fortunate that the standardization of flavor in today’s food industry has not yet reached the Ardeche region, where tradition mounts a good defense.” The subject of the kill is treated for the reading public, matter-of-factly and without graphic details. It’s less about the act and more about a thread of regional culture. We meet the locals — Eric, the pig farmer who offers plenty of space and lots to eat; Aimé the butcher, who works like a Swiss watchmaker to ensure nothing is lost; Blanchou, who lends a hand however he can, and his dog Florette. From there, the cooking begins. First, blood sausage recipes, then the worlds of sausages — all kinds! — and hams, including yes, recipes for quiches and croque monsieurs. Next is “January, somewhere in Les Landes, the Påte Team”, with Jacquy, Kiki and Pompom. The påte recipe includes Jacquy, because,  as Stephane says, “It’s good to have him around to make the påte.” An so on and so on. The animal is rendered, roasted, racked and revered for 350 pages. Sorry, you’ll have to figure out dessert for yourself. (If you’re lucky, I may one day share my recipe for bacon caramels.)

If you’re a fan of terrines and tenderloins, belly and bacon, sausages and slabs, you might want to pick this book up. The recipes are fantastic and it’s a good read. And the pink puffy cover appeals to my feminine side.

Today — Father’s Day — after spending leisurely time with a cup of coffee perusing “Pork & Sons” and contemplating pork dishes to come, I leave with my wife and kids bound for one of our local Temples to Pork: Dodger’s Stadium, where the venerable Farmer John serves up their world famous Dodger Dogs. I’ll eat one for you.

Not wanting to risk copyright infringement, I’ve chosen not to share a recipe from my new cookbook. Instead, in the spirit of “Pork & Sons,” I give you one of my own favorite pork recipes — rillettes, which is similar to the rillettes recipe in Reynaud’s book. If you’ve not had rillettes, it’s basically a paté without the liver — made with pork, rabbit or, more typically, duck. Spread it on crusty bread with butter and cornichons, if you’d like. Serve with a tasty Rhone or other mid-palate red.

*   *   *


1 cup Mangalitsa or other lard
1 lb. pork shoulder, cut in cubes
1/2 lb. bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 tbsp. Cognac or other sherry
1 cup dry white wine
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Melt lard over medium heat in a small pot. Add onion, pork shoulder and bacon and turn heat to low. Cover and cook for one hour, stirring occassionaly. Remove lid, add remaining ingredients. Return heat to medium until the rillettes begins to simmer, then turn to low again. Cook uncovered for an additional 2 hours, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat.

Remove from heat and remove bay leaf and thyme stem. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Let cool slightly. It’s most appealing to serve rillettes from small jars or ceramic ramekins. If you haven’t got either of those containers, you can store in small bowls. Divide meat between whatever containers you choose, cover and cool in the refrigerator. Stores for several weeks, or may be frozen and defrosted for later use.

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Gaskin
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 00:37:42

    Aren’t lard and mayonnaise sister evils?


  2. Benjamin Thompson
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 00:53:42

    I also have that book. Have yet to make a recipe out of it but have read it several times. I love the narrative feel of the book and the description of the butchering. I do want to make the roast pork in milk.


  3. Andy
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 02:01:05

    Pigs are severally abused regularly in most facilities where they are raised. I won’t go into the hair-raising details (If you want that see a book called “Skinny Bitch” written by two vegans.) but be very, very careful where you buy your pork. I don’t eat it anymore even though we have a incredibly humane farm here that raises pigs and treats them gorgeously….their lives aren’t long but they do not suffer at all and are coddled and loved for as long as they do live. Pigs are more intelligent than dogs so don’t kid yourself into thinking they don’t “feel” the abuse emotionally as well as physically. It brings me to my knees thinking about it.


    • Benjamin Thompson
      Jun 21, 2011 @ 15:32:46

      Andy: This argument can’t be reduced to extremes. It’s a very complex subject that has to be observed in a complex way. People are uncomfortable with extremes and they tend to fall into “Animals taste good” or the other extreme, “I’m a vegan, therefore I’m better than you.” Neither viewpoint helps move us along as a society that values animal life in a more comprehensive manner. The Skinny Bitch books are notoriously biased and many, many women felt cheated when they bought them and then found out it was a Trojan horse for veganism. I myself actually ate vegan for an entire month this spring and I thoroughly enjoyed and learned from the experience. Please read Michael Pollan’s book ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ for a fair examinations of all sides of this important subject.

      I do respect pigs. They are indeed intelligent and I can assure you that I don’t buy massive chunks of meat that have been processed by Cargill or Hormel. If you will look in this subject string you will also see that I have recently bought four pounds of pork products from La Quercia where the pigs were humanely raised and slaughtered. This four pounds of pork will probably last me at least 4 months, probably 6 and will be used judiciously. I value how pork arrived on my plate and just because I choose to eat meat doesn’t mean that I’m not conscious of the animal’s life, death, and overall evolution of our food system in America. Peace, bro.


  4. Benjamin Thompson
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 15:39:50

    Sorry for lecturing your sister then. I’m sure she’s heard the exact same platitudes from you.


  5. Andy
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 15:52:03

    that should have said “severely”.


  6. Andy
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 15:58:28

    Hey Ben Thompson….I’m Andy and my name is actually Andrea Thompson. Funny coincidence. I am not a vegan or a vegetarian. I am just very, very conscious of how the animals I eat live and die and I eat small amounts and pay very high prices. In addition to “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” which I thought was very interesting I also recommend “Fast Food Nation”, “In Defense of Food” and “Food Rules.” Cheers.


  7. scolgin
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 15:58:30

    “Severally” works, too! ; )


  8. dota 2
    Oct 18, 2011 @ 09:40:38

    Thank god some bloggers can still write. Thank you for this post


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