This salmon rillettes recipe is very easy and quick to prepare and is a good chance to get a taste of what is a very popular food in France.
Traditionally rillettes are made with pork, which is chopped, and cooked for a long time in its own fat. This produces a very rich and flavorful mixture that is typically enjoyed spread on toasted bread.
Salmon rillettes are a good option for the less ambitious home cook, as this preparation does not involve hoisting large pieces of pig about the kitchen. Serve this as an appetizer, or along with a small green salad as a starter course. It can even be used as a sandwich spread.
1 egg yolk (you can leave this out if you are concerned about raw eggs)
2 tablespoons yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Bring a large skillet of water to a simmer over medium heat. Add in the splash of white wine, sliced onion, and the salmon. The salmon should be just covered with water.
Simmer at a very low boil for about 6 minutes, or just until the salmon is cooked through. Cooking time will vary according to the thickness of the salmon, but do not over cook.
Remove from heat and drain the salmon into a colander. Set aside to cool.
Blend together the very soft butter with the olive oil. Blend in the egg yolk, yogurt, lemon juice and salt and pepper. It helps for even blending if these ingredients are at room temperature.
Mince the smoked salmon. Chop up the cooled poached salmon. Chop the chives finely.
Add the two salmons and the chives into the butter mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon for two minutes or so. Season to taste with more salt and pepper if you wish. Lots of pepper is good.
Scrape the mixture into a small terrine dish (any small dish will work as well). Push the mixture into the dish to insure that it is compacted. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 24 hours before serving.
To serve, spread on grilled rounds of French bread. Best when at room temperature.
Rillettes (pronounced ree yet) have been made in France for many centuries. They started out as a very simple mixture of chopped pig meat with maybe a little salt and pepper. The meat was cooked for a long time in a large quantity of pig fat. This preparation offered several advantages to the people of yore:
All parts of the pig could go into the preparation, so nothing was wasted and the procedure was very simple.
The finished product, which was covered with a thick layer of fat, could be stored for many months in a cool cellar.
These days all sorts of meats might be chopped, seasoned and then cooked slowly in fat to finally end up as rillettes. Popular versions include duck, goose, chicken and rabbit. Fish rillettes, like the salmon rillettes in the recipe here, are a little different in that the fish is not cooked in fat as part of the preparation.
Rillettes are very popular in France. Anyone might pick up a can or jar in the grocery store, spread it on some sliced baguette, and serve it with an aperitif. Of course, there are different qualities available, and to find good rillettes one really needs to go to a charcutier (a shop that specializes in various meat preparations). Or make it oneself.
Who knows? You may come to like rillettes as much as a French man I once saw. He was spreading pork rillettes on his breakfast toast and dipping this in his café au lait.
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