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5. 18. 10 / rosemarried

thomas keller’s salmon rillettes

Its Tuesday. Tonight is the last regular episode of LOST. Ever! Nich is currently asleep on me and we just finished eating leftover quiche from a luncheon I catered yesterday (my first real catering gig!). Life is good.

Anyway, in the craziness of this last month, I neglected to post the recipe that inspired Nich & I to make salmon rillettes in our last cooking challenge with Taylor and Brittany. While salmon rillettes (Pronounced ree-ett. The ‘s’ is not pronounced.) may sound fancy, the dish is really just a glorified buttery salmon spread. Granted, this is the best salmon spread I have ever ever ever had (really truly, its that good), but it isn’t all that complicated to make. The recipe does call for a few ingredients that you may not have lying about in your pantry/fridge so you’ll want to go shopping before you attempt it (unless you always have creme fraiche and Pernod at home. I did not.)
As for my notes on the recipe – I will say that we based our rillettes off a Thomas Keller recipe (by now, it should be evident that I love all things Thomas Keller), and we stuck relatively close to his original instructions. Since tzatziki was a mystery ingredient in our last challenge, we used tzatziki in place of the creme fraiche that Keller calls for. We also used only fresh salmon that we steamed with garlic and dill, and did not use any smoked salmon (the original recipe uses a combination of steamed and smoked). This seems to be one of those recipes you can’t mess up too badly – I changed a lot of the original ingredients and still ended up with a fantastic rillette.

Salmon Rillettes
Adapted from “Bouchon” by Thomas Keller. Recipe found at

1 pound salmon fillet, skin and pin bones removed

2 tablespoons Pernod (We used Absynthe, but I imagine any anise liquor would work)

Salt & Freshly ground pepper

1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
Several tablespoons of clarified butter

1/2 cup minced shallots

2 tablespoons tzatziki (or creme fraiche, as the original recipe calls for)

Optional: 1/2 pound unsliced smoked salmon, chilled, skin and dark layer removed if necessary, cut into 1/4 -inch dice and brought to room temperature

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup minced chives
1 tablespoon minced (fresh) dill

1. Trim and discard any dark flesh from the salmon fillet. Place the fish in a shallow baking dish and sprinkle each side with 1 tablespoon of the Pernod, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and one-fourth teaspoon pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes, turning the fish over halfway through the marination.

2. Bring water to a simmer in the bottom of a steamer. Remove the salmon from the baking dish and place it in the steamer and cover with the lid. (Optional: we added fresh dill and garlic to the steamer, to add to the flavor of the salmon). Steam gently for 5 to 8 minutes; if you see steam pouring out the sides of the steamer, lower the heat. Check the salmon by separating the flesh with the tip of a knife and peering at the center. It should be medium-rare. When it is cooked, remove from the steamer.

3. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium saute pan over low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the shallots have softened but not browned. Remove from the heat.

4. Put 7 tablespoons butter in a small bowl and beat with a rubber spatula until it is smooth and resembles mayonnaise in consistency. Stir in the tzatziki or creme fraiche (whichever you are using). Set aside.

5. Put the cooked salmon in a large bowl and stir to break it into large chunks. Because you will be stirring in the remaining ingredients, you don’t want to break up the pieces too much. Stir in the smoked salmon, shallots, lemon juice, and olive oil. Season assertively with one-fourth teaspoon salt and one-half teaspoon pepper, since this will be served cold. Fold in the butter mixture.

6. Transfer the rillettes to 2 ceramic or glass serving bowls (we used canning jars), leaving at least one-half-inch of space at the top. Smooth the top of the rillettes and wipe the inside rims clean. Refrigerate for about 1 hour, until cold. Pour a one-fourth-inch-thick layer of clarified butter over the top of the rillettes to create a seal.

7. Cover the bowls and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. To serve, break through the butter layer and remove it (remember to remove the top layer of butter, otherwise it is just too much butter!). Spread the rillettes on toast, crostini, or crackers and sprinkle with chives or fresh dill. (Once the butter seal is removed, eat the rillettes within 2 days.

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