Salmon Spread Recipe: Salmon Rillettes
I know you’re wondering why I’m not talking about chocolate since I just posted a slew of chocolate faqs. But I made this recipe for a birthday party last weekend and had to share it.
You can curse me now…but thank me later once you’ve tasted it.
…and yes, you’re welcome. (In advance.)
A recent story on CNN talked about how America’s Favorite French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, was not bourgeois, noting that he didn’t grow up in a rarified family and as the (American) commentator exclaimed…“He didn’t grow up eating pâté!”
I thought that was pretty funny since meaty pâtés and rillettes aren’t upscale delicacies in France, but are considered everyday fare. And some of the best pâtés I’ve had were country-style spreads, or rillettes. Rillettes are usually made with long-cooked salted pork, rabbit, or goose, which is them shredded then mashed with fat to produce a rich, rustic paste for spreading on bread.
If you get a bad one, you’ll think you’re being served something intended for Rover.
But a good one, the best rillettes you find, are nearly buttery-smooth and rich with the taste of fork-tender meat.
Yet rillettes can also be made with fish. I don’t know if they’re so traditional. But boy, is this one good and it’s worth tossing tradition out the window for.
And easy to make. I find it’s pretty impressive instead of the usually cubes of cheese or other ho-hum appetizers that get served at parties. Plus there’s little to whine about, since it literally takes just a few minutes to put together. And who doesn’t appreciate less-whining around the holidays?
I know my friends will certainly appreciate it.
As the busy holiday season approaches, in just a short time, so many of us are going to be loony,or loony-er, and it’s nice to have something in your repertoire that A) Can be made a couple of days in advance, B) Has just a few easy-to-find ingredients, and C) Tastes fabulous.
People were raving about this spread a the birthday party I went to last weekend—not mine…yet*…, which is nothing more than a little wad of good butter, a drip of olive oil, and a combination of smoked and steamed salmon. I’ve been tempted to try this with some chopped green olives or capers, or dill in place of the chives, so if you do, let me know how it turns out. It’s just always such a hit as it is, I just can’t bear to futz with it. But maybe you can be my cobaye.
Salmon Rillettes/Salmon Spread
This has become one of my top go-to recipes. If you don’t live in France, it’s kind of exciting to introduce guests to rillettes and they’ll immediately think you’re very sophisticated (although that strategy hasn’t worked for me around here.) I serve it with toasted slices of grainy baguettes, but it would be tasty with dark rye or heaped on wholemeal crackers.
As mentioned, I haven’t tried variations on this recipe, except I did use smoked trout once along with the steamed salmon, and no one was the wiser. Don’t tell David, but you could probably get away with using canned salmon if fresh salmon is hard to come by where you live.
- 8 ounce (250 g) piece of salmon, preferably wild, bones removed
- 5 tablespoons (75 g) unsalted butter)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives
- 4 ounces (125 g) smoked salmon, cut into thin strips, then cut into ½-inch (2 cm) pieces
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder or smoke paprika (I use pimente d'Espelette) or a few turns of freshly-ground white pepper
1. Season the salmon on both sides lightly with a bit of salt. Steam in a steamer basket until just cooked, about 8 minutes. If you have a microwave, you can probably cook it in there as well.
Once cooked, remove from heat and let cool.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, mash together with a fork the butter and the olive oil until very smooth.
This is très important; otherwise there’ll be big chunks of butter in the finished rillettes.
3. Stir in the lemon juice, then the chopped chives and smoked salmon.
4. Remove the skin from the salmon and flake the cooked salmon over the mixture, then fold the pieces of salmon into the rillette mixture along with the chili powder.
Season with salt, if necessary.
5. Scrape into a serving dish, cover, and chill for at least two hours. Let come to room temperature before serving.
Storage: The rillettes can be made up to two days before and refrigerated. They can also be frozen, well-wrapped, for up to two months.
*Don’t worry. I’ll let you know.