Wine Culture Magazine

Photo courtesy of Appetite by Random House

Recipe from Where the River Narrows, by J-C Poirier with Joie Alvaro Kent ] (Appetite by Random House). In the headnotes, Poirier writes: “A few years ago, my wife and I were lucky enough to spend a couple of weeks in France, where every single restaurant offered their guests bread with either rillettes or butter. I’d forgotten how much this simple gesture makes you feel welcome and relaxed, and it solidified my need to bring that sense of hospitality to my restaurant in Vancouver.”

Pairing for cretons

Photo courtesy of Appetite by Random House

Cretons are a rustic pâté similar to French rillettes, a classic Quebecois snack that was once part of every home cook’s repertoire (though today they are more likely to buy it at the grocery store). It is not fancy food by any means; it is typically served on toast at breakfast, in a lunchbox sandwich or on a charcuterie board later in the day. 

As for what to pair with cretons, St. Lawrence sommelier David Lawson jokes, “The Quebecer in me says a nice cold Labatt 50.”

Seriously, though, he points out that the challenge is that cretons are high in fat and lightly spiced with nutmeg and clove. He advises against most reds unless they have almost no tannins at all, such as a juicy Gamay from a cooler appellation. 

Instead, he says, “Champagne is so good with something like that. Every bubble will steal the fat away and be delightful.” He also suggests a refreshing Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley: “You don’t want it to be bone dry; you want just a touch of residual sugar.”

Yield: 1 terrine
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 2¼ hours + overnight chilling

What you’ll need

Terrine mould, 10 by 3 by 3 inches (25.5 cm by 7.5 cm by 7.5 cm)


• 1 lb (450 g) pork back fat, diced into ¼-inch (5 mm) cubes

• ½ cup (125 mL) water

• 2 Tbsp (30 g) unsalted butter

• 1½ cups (250 g) diced onions

• 1 Tbsp (10 g) roughly chopped garlic

• 1.7 lb (750 g) ground pork

• 1 cup (75 g) diced white bread

• 1¹⁄³ cups (325 mL) homogenized milk (3.25% milk fat)

• ¼ tsp (1 g) ground cloves

• 1 tsp (3 g) ground cinnamon

• 1¼ tsp (3 g) freshly ground nutmeg

• 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp (15 g) kosher salt

• 1 tsp (2 g) freshly cracked black pepper

• Toasted sourdough bread slices, for serving

• French’s mustard, for serving


In a medium saucepan on low heat, gently cook the back fat and water until melted, about 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain into a small bowl, reserving some of the liquid fat for sweating the onions and garlic and layering over the cretons later on. The remaining cubed bits are the “fonte,” which will be added to the cretons mix.

In a frying pan on medium heat, melt the butter with 1 Tbsp (15 g) of the liquid pork fat. Sweat the onions and garlic, stirring often, until the onions are translucent but without colouration, about 15 minutes. Add the ground pork and continue cooking, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks.

When the ground pork is almost fully cooked, about 15 minutes, stir in the fonte, bread, milk, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Lower the heat to low and cook for 1 hour or longer, until all the liquid has evaporated. Turn off the heat and let cool completely. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse for 10 seconds to ensure the cretons are nice and smooth. Line the inside of the terrine mould with plastic wrap. Using an offset spatula, spread the cretons evenly in the mould, and cover with a layer of the reserved liquid pork fat.

Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, unmould the cretons by pulling the plastic wrap out of the terrine. Serve yourself a nice big slice, because you deserve it, along with a thick slice of toast slathered with butter and yellow mustard. “Trashy French’s classic yellow mustard is a must,” Poirier writes. “Nothing else will do. Trust me.”

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