Chef Craig Diehl’s journey began in 2007 when his kitchen crew asked him to source a whole pig. He easily found an animal. Cutting it up was not too difficult, but determining how to maximize its utility presented quite a challenge. Once the loins and chops of a whole hog are relegated to the frying pan and the hams laid into cure, the rest of the animal awaits. Complicating these matters are the various breeds now locally available, which can be roughly divided into “meat-types” and “lard-types,” the latter often being so interlaced with fat that even the leanest portions are only suitable for sausage. And so Diehl spent five years learning, through research and experimentation, the true art of butchery and the delicate task of profitably incorporating that practice into a working restaurant.
The rillettes are something that you can easily make at home. Diehl’s non-traditional stove-top method speeds the required cooking time and adds a layer of caramelization that he finds particularly appealing for its deep, meaty flavor. Smeared on rustic bread, rillettes are not unlike a country pate, albeit much easier to produce, and the presentation could find itself equally at home on a fishing trip as a black tie affair. It is the depth of flavor and unctuous mouth feel that set rillettes apart from—dare we say—an “ordinary” pork chop? That’s quite a feat for a lowly pile of scraps chased with a pickled green bean.