What are rillettes and why do they keep popping up on menus wherever I go? Sepia and Maijean: pork rillettes. Brasserie Ruhlmann and North Pond: duck rillettes. Everest: venison. Bin 36 and HotChocolate: rabbit. Alinea does an astounding cubist-inspired lamb version that’s way too complicated to go into here. The word (pronounced ree-YET) means something along the lines of “planks”—I recall that much from Monsieur Curzydlo in 11th-grade French—but this rich concoction is anything but hard. Basically, it’s large cubes of meat that’s been salted to insane lengths, slowly cooked in fat, shredded, and fashioned (fat and all) into a paste, which is spread on toast points like pâté. The pork rillettes at Sepia (123 N. Jefferson St.; 312-441-1920), currently the city’s most popular version, have an applewood-smoked, caramelized pistachio/bacon brittle stuck in them like a dagger. A very delicious dagger. The whole thing, served with homemade fig jam, comes in the kind of preserves jar you’d find in your mom’s pantry; it’s smooth, earthy, and not even the slightest bit healthy. Just like M. Curzydlo, non?
Photography: Tyllie Barbosa