The Christmas holiday has now passed. I have let it be known around my house that the kitchen this week (and maybe the next week too) is temporarily closed! Fend for yourselves, I'm pooped. That last impromptu dinner for 20 people the day after Christmas just about did me in. (I advise anyone thinking of doing this to please give your spouse -- the one who does all the cooking -- more than 2 days notice! ) The last couple of days I have just been relaxing and perusing the many wonderful cookbooks I was lucky enough to receive as gifts from friends and family. I have also been nursing my intense culinary crush on David Lebovitz. Even though his blog makes all us food bloggers look like hacks, both as chefs and as writers, I read it religiously and often find that I am turning to him more and more for inspiration, not just in the kitchen but in how to observe the life around me. His most recent book, The Perfect Scoop, is what turned me onto the pleasures of home made ice cream this past summer. This Christmas, I was given one of his earlier books, The Sweet Life in Paris which is far more than a cookbook -- it is part journal highlighting his amusing insights into his newly adopted city. I hate him for how well he writes! I then immediately forgive him when he offers up another delightful (and "Frenchified") recipe. Although not from the book, this Salmon Rillettes recipe is his and I serve it often. This season it has found its way into several holiday parties, both mine and others. I'm now rushing this post out as fast as I can so you will still enough have time to try this out for your New Year's evening. I can't think of one thing better to serve with Champagne as you toast in the New Year. (Oh, I love champagne!) If you are going out then consider bringing this for your hostess or having it ready in the morning for your brunch. It is that good.
Rillettes is pronounced “Ree-Yet” by the way. Sort of. You will have to say it with your face all scrunched up doing your best Charles Boyer impression to get the accurate sound on your "R". It will take some practice. Or, you can do what my guests did and call it "Salmon Spread". As in, "where did you get this amazing salmon spread? What is it?" Have some fun correcting them. "Its Salmon Ree Yet." Then watch them stare at you blankly. "Huh?" Rillettes is usually a pork or duck creation where the meat is slowly cooked until tender and then cooled with its own fat in a jar where it is preserved for use later as a spread on bread or toasts. Duck confit is on my target list for 2011 so no doubt the duck version will be on the menu soon but its hard for me to fathom how it can be better than this less traditional salmon version. It is easy to make and doesn't require nearly the same amount of prep as duck or pork rillettes. Typically it is both stored and served in canning jars. This recipe will make exactly two half pint jars of the stuff which will be perfect as you will use one for your party and will grateful to have the other one hidden away for yourself to enjoy to next day.
Salmon Rillettes (adapted from David Lebovitz)
- 8 ounce piece of salmon, preferably wild, bones removed
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives
- 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
- 4 ounces (125 g) smoked salmon, cut into thin strips, then cut into ½-inch (2 cm) pieces
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder and/or a few turns of freshly-ground white pepper to taste
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.
Spoon into canning jars and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. To serve, remove from refrigerator and let come down to just below room temperature. Keeps for 3 days or so. 1 month in the freezer if sealed and wrapped well.