Recipe Spotlight

Make Rillons, aka Pork Candy, for Mardi Gras

These glossy, caramelized pork belly bites are surefire crowd-pleasers.
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Published Feb. 2, 2024.

Isaac Toups of Toups’ Meatery in New Orleans says he found this unique version of rillons—bite-size bits of pork belly braised in a red-wine caramel—in an old Cajun cookbook (rillons are a cousin of rillettes—meat cooked and preserved in its own fat). He calls them pork candy or “alcoholic pork belly caramel.” I call them the ultimate party snack, decadent and irresistible. 

This recipe is inspired by the rillons I had for “dessert” at the end of an unforgettable meal at the Meatery and by the recipe Toups published in his book Chasing the Gator: Isaac Toups and the New Cajun Cooking (2018).

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Relying on the test kitchen’s care for engineering the most failproof recipes for the home cook, I’ve adapted his recipe based on techniques I learned from making the more classic French-style rillons. (They’re a centuries-old delicacy in the Touraine province in France’s Loire valley, a region famous for its way with potted meats.) 

  • Salting the chunks of pork belly a day ahead not only helps keep the pork juicy through the long braise it needs to become tender but also seasons the meat throughout, balancing the sweetness of the red-wine caramel that glazes each little morsel. 
  • Browning the chunks of rich pork belly until their fat is rendered allows you to pour off some of the excess fat so that it doesn’t pool in the finished dish. The fat that remains on the rillons becomes impeccably unctuous, tender, and silky and is a big part of the dish’s appeal. So take Toups’s advice and look for pork belly with lots of good fat. 
  • Finally, cooking the red-wine caramel until it reaches 225 degrees ensures a sauce with the perfect glossy, glaze-like texture and guarantees consistent results every time. 

Next time you’re asked to bring food to a party or are planning a spread for your own, make these. Trust me, they are a next‑level replacement for the cocktail meatball and are bound to kick off a lively conversation. 

Recipe

Rillons

For your next gathering, think beyond the cocktail meatball.
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And please, if you have leftover pork-infused red-wine caramel, don’t throw it out; you haven’t lived until you’ve tried it warm, drizzled over a brownie sundae.

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