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« The Perfect Pie Crust and Raspberry Pie with Twice-Baked Crust (via Melissa Clark) | Pie Month | Main | Bacon and Egg Pizza Pie (via the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook) | Pie Month »

Pork Confit Pie with Creme Fraiche Potatoes and Puff Pastry (via Pork & Sons Cookbook) | Pie Month

This is the 9th entry in our Month of Pie. Pie Month is a celebration of things we love. Because life is hard, and there should always be more pie. Have a look at the other entries. Really. 
Pie #4 - Peanut Butter Cream Pie with Chocolate Whipped Cream
Pie #5 - Butterscotch Cream Pie with Gingersnap Crust and Cashew Brittle
Pie #6 - Banana Cream Pie with Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust
Pie #7 - Chocolate Kahlua Pie
Pie #8 - Bacon and Egg Pizza

There are some impossible pies for me. Pies that develop their own myth in my mind, of greatness and potential and memory.

And with all great pies, and myths, a quest must be undertaken. To slay the dragon. And in this case, the quest was for a three-day pie. And duck fat. Two pounds of duck fat.

Duck fat isn’t easy to find. I visited three grocery stores in the area that pride themselves on stocking the best products possible. No duck fat. I called two more. No duck fat.

I called four butchers in NJ and NYC. No duck fat. I went to the giant Whole Foods in Columbus Circle. No duck fat. 

Finally, I called Wegman’s. Spoke with their meat department. The really great guy on the other end of the line said they special order their duck fat from D’Artagnan. “Maybe you could call them. They’re in Newark.” 

Wait, a minute, there’s a warehouse of duck fat fifteen minutes from our house? Why had no one told me of this magical land?

I placed my order for a whole lot of duck fat. They told me I could pick it up later that day (more some other time on how wonderful the people of D’Artagnan are and the tour I got of the facility). 

And then I was swimming in duck fat. 

Now on to the three-day pie...

Ever since we picked up the book Pork & Sons by Stéphane Reynaud, we’ve been smitten. The book chronicles butchering hogs in France. I grew up in Indiana (which one might describe as a long way from France), sometimes slaughtering animals, and a hog was butchered nearly every year.  And I’ve always had my eye on Reynaud’s Pork Confit Pie. It seemed rustic and extravagant all at the same time, pork preserved in fat, topped with potatoes in creamy fat, encrusted in puff pastry which is essentially flour and butter. Fat upon fat upon fat. I've stared at that pie recipe in the book over the last few years, wondering what it must taste like.

It takes three days, this pie. One for the making the pork confit. Another day to let the confit mellow. And another day to bake it. You can make the pork confit and let it mellow for days. Or weeks even. Then make the pie when you’re ready.

Here’s how it deep, deep love. And care and craft and savory+sweet perfection. This pie heals parts of you that you didn’t know were hurting. It is shocking and mellow and makes you raise your hands in the air in victory with the very first bite.

Some quests are worth it. This three-day pie is worth it. Duck fat and all.

Make this for family. Or the friends who are closest to you. This pie is too special to share with just anybody.

recipe | Pork Confit Pie with Creme Fraiche Potatoes and Puff Pastry (via Pork & Sons Cookbook) 

Pork confit (makes enough for two pies, or use the extra confit for something else)
  • 1¼  pounds of boneless fatty pork shoulder
  • 1¼  pounds of pork belly
  • 1¼ cups of sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (you can use regular if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 2 pounds duck fat (we used D’Artagnan brand)
  • 1½ pounds of pork lard
  • 2-4 jars for storage
Cut the shoulder meat and pork belly into four separate pieces (for a total of eight pieces of meat).

Place them into an 8x8 inch baking dish (or whatever you need to closely nestle the meat together without overcrowding). 

Mix together the sugar, salt, paprika, thyme, and bay leaf crumbles. 

Sprinkle over the meat. Cover the meat with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. 

Uncover the meat and wipe each piece with a damp paper towel. Get most, but not all, of the sugar and spice off. 

Melt the duck fat and pork lard in a large pan over low heat. You have to keep this at a low heat, so don’t be tempted to raise the heat initially to turn it down later. Keep it low and don’t touch it. Sorry, that was very bossy. 

Once the fats are melted, add the eight pieces of meat and cook gently for 2 hours. You know the meat is done when you can insert a smooth knife blade with nearly no resistance. 

Place a bit of liquid fat into the bottom of each jar. Place two pieces of meat (one of belly, one of shoulder) into each of the jars. Use the remaining fat to cover the meat completely. 

We stored ours in the refrigerator, where they will keep for weeks if not months. We let ours sit for 24 hours to fully rest and prepare for their next stage of awesome.

For the pie

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 pound 2 ounces (or so) of pork confit, coarsely chopped
  • 3-4 tablespoons basil, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons thyme, chopped finely
  • 2-3 tablespoons of chives, chopped finely
  • 5-6 large potatoes (use any kind you want, we used Russet) peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 1 cup crème fraiche (you could substitute full fat sour cream, but don’t)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pound puff pastry, thawed
  • A little flour for rolling out the puff pastry
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten lightly
  • Salt and pepper

Get the puff pastry out of the freezer if you haven’t yet. Or make it (whatever, overachiever).
Get a large pan of water on high for the potatoes. You want it at a low boil later. Go deal with the onions.
In a large pan, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the onions and garlic, stirring when you feel like it. Cook for five minutes. You’re not browning; you’re softening. Turn off the heat. Add in the confit, basil, thyme, and chives. Mix until combined. Let the onions and garlic mingle and make some friends with the pork and herbs. Move on to the potatoes.
Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water. Drop the potato slices into the water individually. If you drop them in clumps, they stick. I know this as a fact. Cook them until not quite cooked through but softened (like the onions above).  Maybe 3-5 minutes, but use your judgment. You know your potatoes. When you’re ready, pull the potatoes out of the water and let them drain and cool a bit in a colander.
Dump the onion+pork confit mixture into a food processor. Pulse until evenly chopped and combined.  Right before your last pulse, taste for salt and pepper.  Then pulse again. Don’t turn it on for a full spin during this phase. You’ll get a paste if you do that. You want a lightly chunky, happy mixture, not some sad-looking pate.
In a large bowl, dump in the cooled potato slices along with the crème fraiche and cumin. Stir gently to combine.
Turn the oven on to 325 F.
Cut the puff pastry into two pieces, one a little bigger than the other (the big one will end up on the bottom of the pie and the smaller one on top). Lightly flour a work surface and your rolling pin and roll out the larger piece of pastry until about 11 inches in diameter. Lay it carefully into the pie plate, edges hanging over the sides. You need overhang, so if you don’t have it, roll it a bit more. If things are getting too warm, through the pastry back in the freezer.
Add the pork into the pie plate on top of the puff pastry bottom.  Smooth it out a little. Add the potatoes on top. All of the potatoes might not make it in the plate, but don’t waste the crème fraiche.
Brush the rim of the puff pastry (the overhang) with the beaten egg. Rollout the remaining puff pastry and place on top of the potatoes. You  want the top touching the egg you just brushed on the overhang. Press the edges together until they seal (note, you don’t want a lot of extra puff pastry that you bunch up. It won’t cook fully, and it will give you doughy innards. Again, this is a fact I now know).
Brush the top with the remaining egg. Then cut at least one slit in the top of the crust so steam can escape. Make a pattern if you’re feeling fancy.
Place the pie on a cookie sheet and then slide the whole thing into the oven. Bake for at least 45 minutes until you’re feeling good about yourself and the pastry is golden brown.
Let cool for 10 minutes at least. Serve by scooping. You’re not going to get pretty slices unless you cool the whole thing, then slice, then reheat. Which is an abomination.
Leftovers are fantastic, but you really need to try it fresh out of the oven. You earned it.

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Reader Comments (18)

This pie might be a sin. But that's ok. I want it.
And yes, that comment about the confit was a little bossy, but that's alright. If you've got the key to this gorgeousness, you're allowed to be a little bossy.

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMrsWheelbarrow

you picked up duck fat in Newark and got a tour of the facility! that's a great story on its own.

January 24, 2011 | Unregistered

I think I just died and went to pork heaven. Thank you. :-p

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Looks like your wild goose chase paid off. This sounds decadent and like a slice of heaven!

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPretend Chef

I truly commend you on your efforts! It looks absolutely amazing, but I am not nearly dedicated enough to pork to spend 3 days at it. When you find the 45-minute shortcut, let me know ;)

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjen

Oh my. That is some serious, serious pie. Congratulations...

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertori

But now I'm soooo hungry, and I haven't any pork confit pie for lunch. Oh, the horror! I must try this. Must. Must. Try. Thank you!

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I must have this! I have made pork confit before with just bacon fat ... now, this is probably a stupid question, but is the duck fat super apparent in this? Could I get away with using bacon fat? Price is a concern, though if it's really really worth it, I'd splurge.

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteremvandee I promise a post in the future about our D'Artagnan trip. We're going back soon, I hope, to take pics.

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Pêche

@emvandee I have to say that I'm not sure about the difference. The duck + lard does give the pork a distinct flavor, but it seemed to make it porkier as opposed to a duck/pork hybrid. If you can't get the duck fat (so sad), then you might try it with straight lard.

Did you find the pork to have a bacon flavor when you used bacon fat? We're interested...

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Pêche

@Jen, you really could substitute a lightly browned sausage or ground pork in this pie if you want something faster. I know you well enough to know you're not doing the confit, but take a smack at cooking up some ground pork and then following the recipe from there, subbing it for the confit.

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Pêche

I'm really hoping I qualify as one of your closest friends so that I'll get to taste this one day. I'm ready to undertake a 3 day pie on my own yet...but someday.

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlyssa A

this is the perfect dish! now on my to-do list! i'm so thrilled that you confit pork, one of my favorite things! well done.

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMy Barbarian Table

You Sir, are a foodie extraordinaire! I applaud your dedication to your craft. The care and the time that went into the making of this exquisite pie and then the delightfully charming write-up is admirable. Let's not forget your wife's stunning photographs that give all your hard work such beautiful podiums which readers can only gaze upon in awe.

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaula

Found your blog via the Baked facebook page.

You guys are killing me! These pies are so beautiful and you make it sound so easy I want to go home and make each one.

And I don't even like pie that much.

Until now.

Keep up the good work!

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

This is worth foregoing dessert for all week!!! I can think of all kinds of occasions to have this - which may or may not be a good thing...

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

Just curious to know...
When will The Peche Cafe open?
So I can try this amaaaazing pie!
I'm so impressed!

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAbizatilna

I just finished making some pork confit and was wondering what to do with it. A chef friend directed me to this Pork & Son's recipe. So glad you posted it!

By the way, I used this recipe for pork confit and it's heavenly. It calls for pork fat, instead of duck fat:

Duck fat is super expensive, but rendering your own pork fat is cheap and easy. Pork fatback is ~$2/pound. I used Homesick Texan's method for rendering the lard.

The lard is great to have on hand for making tamales, savory pie crusts, etc.

Many thanks again for posting the recipe.

January 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSeattleTallPoppy

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