Pork and Herb “Meatballs”

Caillettes

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

Appears in

Simple French Food

By Richard Olney

Published 1974

  • About

A recipe typical of the Vaucluse and Ardêche country, the area west of the Rhône valley stretching from Avignon to Lyons. The mixture may also be poured into a fat-lined terrine, baked for 1½ hours in a 350° oven, and cooled under weight. It becomes la terrine aux herbes, a specialty of Chez-Hiély-Lucullus in Avignon, one of the finest restaurants in France for the appreciation of regional cooking (and, among restaurants of quality, probably the least expensive).

The spinach is sometimes replaced, in part, by the green parts of the leaves of Swiss chard, also parboiled (10 minutes), pressed, and chopped. Caul (crêpine) is the thin, fatty, weblike membrane surrounding the pig’s intestines. You may have to go to a specialty pork butcher for it or ask your butcher to order it especially. If you cannot find caul, substitute a couple of thin strips of fatback or bacon, wrapping each caillette so that they cross on the top surface, the ends being tucked beneath.

Caillettes are nearly always eaten cold as a first course, but, traditionally, they are served hot at Christmastime, accompanied by a truffle sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds spinach, well picked over and washed in several waters
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed, peeled, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces fresh fatback, chopped or cut into tiny cubes 10 ounces pork variety meats (liver, lungs, heart, spleen, in approximately equal quantities of those that you are able to find—sometimes only liver is used, but the result is less interesting), finely chopped
  • 5 ounces chopped chicken livers
  • 8 ounces lean, fresh salt-pork (uncured bacon), chopped
  • 1 handful chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled thyme
  • ½ bay leaf, crumbled and finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Caul

Method

Gently cook the chopped onion in olive oil, stirring from time to time, for from 15 to 20 minutes—until yellowed and soft, but not browned.

Parboil the spinach for a couple of minutes in a large quantity of salted rapidly boiling water, drain, refresh under running cold water, squeeze the mass repeatedly in your hands to rid it of the maximum liquid, and chop it well.

Combine all of the ingredients except the caul and mix thoroughly with your hands. Form handsful of the mixture to the approximate size of a small orange and wrap each in a 5- or 6-inch square of caul (it is not always possible to cut it so mechanically—pieces may be spliced together). Pour about ½ cup water into the bottom of a shallow baking dish, cake tin, or anything that is just large enough to hold the caillettes placed side by side; arrange them in the pan and bake in a hot oven (450°) for about 25 minutes. Finish with overhead heat, if necessary, to lightly brown the surfaces. Leave to cool and refrigerate. They are better served close to room temperature, so it is wise to remove them from the refrigerator an hour or so before serving.