As proscuittos and sausages are most people's introduction to dry cured foods, rillettes are the gateway to spread-able meats. Three years ago, I had my first charcuterie plate, and while I didn't realize it at the time, it was a life changing experience. It was then I had my first batch of rillettes and was hooked into charcuterie, seeking and consuming all offerings in Chicago. Shortly after going down that porcine road, I attended my first butchering demo and learned the ways of various cured meats and old preservation techniques. Today, after much practice, I have a decent approach to the art.
Luckily for me, for the second week in a row, I got the one lamb neck in stock at my local butcher. This is a great piece of meat for making rillettes, since it's very flavorful and tender. Due to the uniqueness of the cut of meat, I salted the neck then slow roasted it in a 200 Dg oven over-night while I slept. This allowed for the fat to slowly seep out of the meat and essentially baste itself while roasting. Once morning came, the meat was easily shreddable. Traditionally, the cooking process for rillettes would take place in a covered pot with simmering liquid, but that's another post.
When shredding lamb neck meat, it's important to discard the tendons [pictured]. They are texturally unappealing, not tasty, and no good can ever come from them.
Once the meat is off the bone, place it in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment -- and whatever you do, don't discard the neck bone as it will be excellent stock material for later. Once the shredded meat is in the mixer, add your desired seasonings, and stream in either more fat or stock to help give the rillettes a paste-like, spreadable texture. It should only take a few minutes. The goal is to make something homogenous, however I like to leave little treasures throughout my mixes.
Remember to season the meat aggressively, because the flavors will be slightly muted when it's served at a chilled or room temperature. The final step, is to place the meat in a sterile jar, then seal with boiling fat.
Leave the jar to cool, then tightly seal with the lid, and you'll have an everlasting snack of spreadable meat. When serving, be sure to give ample time for the rillettes to come to temperature, and to drizzle extra fat over the heaping mound. A favorite fruit or compote also makes an excellent accompaniment.