A story on CNN talked about how former 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 paste for spreading on bread.
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. It’s easy to make, too. And I find it more impressive than the usual appetizers that get served at parties. It’s a no-fail recipe and literally takes just minutes to put together.
People were raving about this spread at a birthday party I went to last weekend—not mine…yet…, which is nothing more than a few pats 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. It’s just always such a hit as it is but it’s certainly open to other interpretations.
Salmon Rillettes/Salmon Spread
- 8 ounce (250g) piece of salmon, preferably wild, bones removed
- 5 tablespoons (75g) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives
- 4 ounces (125g) smoked salmon, cut into thin strips, then cut into ½-inch (2 cm) pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder or smoke paprika (I use pimente d'Espelette) or a few turns of freshly-ground white pepper
- Season the salmon on both sides lightly with a bit of salt. Steam in a steamer basket until just cooked, about 8 minutes. Once cooked, remove from heat and let cool.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mash together with a fork the butter and the olive oil until very smooth. This is important at this point. Otherwise, there’ll be big chunks of butter in the finished rillettes.
- Stir in the lemon juice, then the chopped chives and smoked salmon.
- 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. Taste, and add more salt if desired.
- Scrape into a serving dish, cover, and chill for at least two hours. Let come to room temperature before serving.