Monday, August 23, 2010

Pork Rillettes with Pickled Cherries

Pork Rillettes with Pickled Cherries at Paprika Red

Years ago, I was invited to a party at someone's house that I didn't know. Not wanting to show up empty handed, I stopped at Whole Foods for some snacks, figuring I'd pick up something tasty from their enormous cheese counter. After chatting with the cheese lady and trying a few samples, I came across these intruiging sweet, sour, spiced, and pickled cherries. The gal had me try them with a creamy, mild blue cheese, and I was hooked. The combination was outrageous - creamy and crisp, salty and sweet, spicy and savory, all contrasting flavors and textures that harmonized beautifully. I picked up a small tub of the cherries, some cheese, and some bread and crackers, and headed off to the party, where they were devoured by the end of the night.

The other weekend, staring at the 3 pounds of sweet and juicy Lapin cherries I'd picked up from the farmer's market, I decided to see if I could create something similar to those spicy-sour-sweet cherries. I'd also been kicking around the idea of making pork rillettes, thinking that those tart-sweet cherries would compliment the creamy, rich pork nicely. I imagined sitting on a large blanket, under the dappled light of a tree, sipping on champagne, listening to birds, spreading pieces of crusty baguette with luscious pork pâté and topping with ruby red pieces of puckery-sweet and spicy cherries. I'd created quiet the afternoon in my mind, so I had to get crackin'.

I'd never made rillettes before, so I went poking around for recipes online. They all called for slow and low cooking, but on the stovetop or in the oven. I didn't want to turn on the oven or otherwise heat the kitchen for 3 -4 hours. Then it hit me - why not use the crock pot? It turned out perfectly, with minimal kitchen heating. And the pork and cherries? A match made in heaven. (Unfortunately, the weather was not heavenly - it was in the 60s and rained all weekend, in August! - so my picnic was indoors. At least the food was good.)