Despite what the supermarket aisle may lead you to believe, there's more to an animal than neatly wrapped styrofoam trays of meat. From tongue to tail, offal (pronounced awful) encompasses all those taboo edibles that don't make the cut at your local grocer. Just Offal is here to explore these oft-neglected byproducts of butchering, featuring different offal meals from establishments across the Valley.
This week: Cretons a French Canadian breakfast spread made from Pork Scrap
The Ick Factor: Calling any part of the animal "scrap" doesn't exactly bode well for the offal in question. Lucky for cretons, it tastes like a heartier bacon fat-spiked pork spread compared to its pinky-raised cousin, pate. The French Canadian cretons is a bit hard to track down outside of New England, but we're happy to chew the fat on this porky product, and can even share a recipe.
(bite into all the juicy details after the jump)
The Offal Choice: In New England and Canada, cretons (sometimes called gorton or corton) are part of a well rounded French Canadian breakfast. The fatty, porky product is served aside crackers, bread, or toast, and generally topped with mustard or jam. The scraps can include a variety of meat from the head, tail, and just about anywhere else on the beast, with pork marrow added at times to help make it more gelatinous. Pretty much everything but the oink gets included.
While a tub of cretons is easy to track down back east, we'll be the first to admit that finding French Canadian food out here is an elusive endeavor. Even poutaine--the tastiest Canadian junk food in history--is hard to track down in the Valley (Go Beaver Choice!), so we understand how crafting an entire Quebec-catered menu is a bit niche this far south. Luckily, we have an old family recipe and a couple variations, so you don't have to miss out.
Tastes Just Like: Ground pork paste spiked with mega bacon fat flavor. Cretons almost tastes like a porkier version of scrapple, which makes sense considering both are made with all the pork scraps (get it...scrapple?) that just don't make the cut in other products. It almost resembles the midway product between a pate and rillettes (think cold shredded meat paste), and there had best be a congealed layer of pork fat atop the finished refrigerated product, or it has no business calling itself cretons.
The texture is similar to a pate, although there's more of a meaty bite as it isn't ground as fine, and doesn't contain the same filler as some pates. The fat content of this meat spread makes it smooth and unctuous, although it's possible to hit a couple questionable globules of fat and other jiggly bits here and there. That's just a risk you're going to have to take for cretons.
Always been a DIY-er? Our family recipe is an easy peasy, savory version of cretons. The recipe is a bit sparse, so fill in the blanks as best you can. You'll need a pound of ground pork, one small chopped onion, ½ cup of water, and the old S & P to taste. Brown the pork in a skillet (it can be drained to eliminate some of the fat content) and add the rest of the ingredients. Cook 30 to 45 minutes and then pour it into small bowls and refrigerate until cold. Serve on toast or crackers with mustard.
If you're looking for a more spiced version of cretons (or a few more instructions for cooking), try out a couple of cretons recipes that add cloves, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and other sweet 'n' earthy aromatics. Feel free to sub duck, veal, or beef and you're on the way to making your own "family recipe."