Salmon Rillettes Redux and ‘Goodbye’?

Salmon Rillettes Crab Ravioli-Dorie GreenspanIf you read this blog or any of those written by my fellow Doristas as of late, you must be wondering if you have stumbled upon one of the most protracted goodbyes in literary history. We posted our “final assignment” more than three weeks ago. Yet here we are still wading through our memories, posting more delicious food, and promising yet even more goodbyes to French Friday’s with Dorie next week. I suppose after four years, seven months and 21 days this should be expected, but not even David Letterman took this long to sign-off, and his show ran for 22 years.

Celebrating and being reflective by adhering to writing themes is the intent of scheduling a four week goodbye. This week we were to compose a post around the one recipe we have cooked the most. It is dubbed our “play-it-again Dorie” dish, and I promise I will eventually get to it, but first I have some thinking to do. ‘Natch.But after last week’s post, the only reflecting I have to give is on the very nature of goodbyes themselves.

Goodbyes by their very essence are sad things. They infer an ending and usually occur when we are at finishing up with something pleasurable, or at least something we would prefer to remember that way, such as a party or a relationship. If so, why do some people have such trouble with them while others seem to have none at all? Does saying goodbye mean different things to different people?

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There are many ways to do goodbyes. The Obligatory Goodbye runs the risk of appearing insincere. This is usually because, well, they often are. If you have ever had to say goodbye to an unwelcome houseguest, then you know what I am talking about here. Awkward Goodbyes are those worth avoiding at all costs. These are like those uncomfortable moments that occur when I go kiss goodbye my Aunt Charlotte on the cheek while she is aiming straight for my lips. Casual Goodbyes hardly seem like they should be counted at all as goodbyes at all considering they rarely mean goodbye, often only meaning “I’ll see you tonight.”

I am partial to the speedy goodbye. Saying a speedy goodbye unexpectedly while moving rapidly toward the exit makes it much easier to avoid all of these usual goodbye pitfalls. I like to leave little time for goodbye sadness, insincerity or awkwardness, and give the participants as little time for self-conscious display or awkwardness as they are left to wonder whether or not you are offering a real goodbye or merely a see you later.

I’m a fan of the Irish Goodbye. The Irish Goodbye is the certainly ethnophobic term for ducking outside unseen, leaving without saying goodbye your hosts or anyone else for that matter. (The origin story for this slang term has it that the Irish don’t say goodbye as they are either too tipsy to manage one or they are trying to leave before someone takes their keys away.) While I am not a fan of such stereotyping, I appreciate how these farewells avoid those awkward small talk moments that inevitably go on much too long. When they finally peter out awkwardly someone invariably tries to revive the interaction by promising often insincerely to meet up again soon. A few more awkward moments follow before those staying and those going awkwardly back away from each other a few steps and eventually make a run for it.

I can’t help but see it is a hostess gift to allow her the opportunity to avoid these moments. They have a party to attend to after all and goodbyes are the natural-born enemy of any happening party. Goodbyes are party killers.

There are a right and wrong ways to do Irish Goodbyes. I would never attempt such thing at small get-togethers. In situations of twenty or more, however, where my exit could threaten the flow of a party or worse, give permission for a mass exodus of guests to follow me, I am all for it. If I feel any lingering guilt, it is easily extinguished with a sincere email the following morning expressing my gratitude for a wonderful evening.

Surprisingly, given my affinity for this approach, I am rarely allowed to pull one off — mostly due to cultural influencers. While I have heard it said that WASPs leave and not say goodbye, Jews say goodbye and then never leave, to my dear Persian-born husband the idea of an Irish Goodbye is anathema. Persian Goodbyes are the polar opposite of Irish Goodbyes. When a Persian gets up to leave a gathering everyone there knows it will be at least a full hour before he (and his spouse) will be sitting comfortably in the car heading home. Persians will need to make their way around the room saying a personal goodbye to every guest. Even those they don’t know or never spoke to that night! A goodbye to the host will engender exaggerated protests that it is much too early to leave (even at 1AM) which are met by the guest’s apologies and necessary excuses. The group will shuffle ten feet toward the exit before an entirely new topic of conversation is initiated necessitating a repeat of the previous routine. As this conversation begins to run its course someone is sure to joins the goodbye train, a new conversation will be started, and another few steps are taken toward the door. Unfortunately, the door is not the finish line for in this exercise of politeness run amock known as the Persian Goodbye it is the host’s obligation leave the party and walk you to your car!

I’m sure my own goodbye approach has a lot to do with the fact I have not had to say many permanent goodbyes. I have been very lucky this way. Several years ago when my very best friends moved to New York we shared that most cliché of goodbyes, the Tearful Airport Goodbye. Only we found ourselves in each other’s company not even two weeks later when my buddies returned to their old neighborhood for a business trip and stayed with us. These days our mutual coastal travel schedules have us laughing together on a near-regular schedule nearly approaching something we had when they were living just across town. Nowadays instead of punctuating our departures with a goodbye we merely say “see you in a few weeks”, whether we have plans to do so or not.

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A far kinder and less stereotypical explanation for the term Irish Goodbye has it that in the years between 1845 and 1852 saying goodbye was often sudden and permanent as people fled for America. The technology and travel hardships of the time meant that once gone, the absence was permanent. Not saying goodbye would save downtrodden Irishmen from any sad or even humiliating leave-taking. Similarly, in the chaotic and uncetain moments following the Iranian Revolution a nation’s entire social class were migrating around the globe, families often splitting up and not knowing their future. World politics would make it impossible for many to return so saying their goodbyes, to friends and country, would often be permanent.

Taken in this sad context I can certainly understand why a goodbye can take on different meanings or be somewhat anxiety causing. When you say goodbye to a dear friend does the specter of permanence cross your mind?

It is difficult for me to feel much anxiety as we say our month-long goodbye to French Fridays with Dorie since I don’t believe our conclusions here will be all too permanent. We’ve become much too close for that, and the very nature Internet will make it much too easy to stay in touch and continue to share. Our web home and Facebook page are not going anywhere, and they are not forbidden to us to return to when we want. I have somewhere around 16 recipes yet to bore you with, besides.

See you in a few weeks Doristas!

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Salmon Rillettes

Whenever I finish off the last bite of Salmon Rillettes, I know my goodbye to them is only temporary. I first made them five years ago at the behest of David Lebovitz, and I’ve been hooked on them ever since. By the time Dorie’s version came up I certainly didn’t need any arm-twisting and cooked up another batch despite the fact that they are very similar in composition, and I had no party plans the week. I decided against posting that week as I was quite busy (‘natch) and didn’t feel the urgency given I had already once posted a similar version.

Seeing as how Salmon Rillettes is very clearly my “play it again Dorie” recipe, I’d say things worked out as they were supposed to.

Easy, tasty, and easily forgiving and making use of whatever salmon scraps and spices you might have on hand and something just unusual enough to get attention, I find it a perfect party appetizer. It also helps that the recipe makes enough for two 8-ounce jars so you can put one out on your appetizer tray and stash the other in the refrigerator for yourself. Use the hidden jar to dole out during the week for snacks or to make yourself a quick, simple Stuff on Toast lunch.

Fortuitously, I used the salmon I had on hand for rillettes to go rogue and turn this post into a French Friday’s with Dorie twofer. Lump crab must have seemed a bit out-of-budget that week so I decided to substitute some lightly steamed salmon for the called-for lump crab meat. I made a Crab-Avocado “Ravioli” avec salmon. My version here uses a drizzle of avocado oil which is another play-it-again-Dorie touch I took from our previous Pistachio Avocado by Anne LeBlanc episode.

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I remember being quite amused while reading Dorie’s intro for this dish. She had us imagining the excitement at Paris’ Michelin three-star L’Astrance restaurant the week they debuted the crab version of this dish – which is essentially a simple crab salad sandwiched between two thin slices of avocado and a drizzled with almond oil.

My grandmother would make herself a crab salad once a week and put a healthy scoop of it ON TOP an avocado half for her lunch. Had she understood to put the crab IN BETWEEN some avocado her tiny kitchen could have been the toast of Paris!




Salmon Rillettes
The Dorie Greenspan Way

This is what you will need:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 small red chile
  • ½ cup white wine or white Vermouth
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 white peppercorns
  • 5 coriander seeds
  • 2 small spring onions, peeled, long green tops removed and reserved, or 1 shallot
  • ½ pound salmon filet, skin and bones removed, cut into small (about ½ inch) cubes
  • ¼ pound smoked salmon (you can add up to 2 ounces more, if you’d like), cut into small (about ¼ inch) dice
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 to 3 pinches of pink peppercorns, crushed with your fingers
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper

This is how you make it:

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove a strip of zest from the lemon and toss it into a medium-sized saucepan; finely grate the rest of the zest and keep the lemon at hand. With a small knife, cut away a sliver of the red chile, discard the seeds and toss the sliver into the saucepan; seed and finely dice the remainder of the chile and hold on to it for the moment.
  2. Pour the wine or Vermouth and water into the pan, add the bay leaf, peppercorns, coriander, onion tops (if you’re using spring onions) and ½ teaspoon salt and put the pan over medium heat. Bring the mix, essentially a court bouillon, to the boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  3. Drop the cubes of fresh salmon into the pan, cover and poach the fish for just 1 minute. Turn everything into a strainer, drain, and then transfer the salmon, minus whatever seasonings have stuck to it, to a mixing bowl.
  4. While the salmon is cooling, finely chop the spring onions or peel, trim and finely dice the shallot. If you’re using a shallot, rinse the dice under cold water and pat dry.
  5. With the back of a fork, lightly mash the poached salmon, then toss the smoked salmon, lemon zest, diced chile and chopped onion into the bowl. Season with salt and pepper and give everything a good stir. Add the soften butter and use the fork to stir and mash it into the mixture until it’s well incorporated and you have a thick spread. Squeeze about half of the lemon’s juice into the bowl, stir it in and season the rillettes with salt and pepper. Taste and add more lemon juice (it’s nice when it’s lemony), salt and pepper, if you’d like, then stir in the pink peppercorns.
  6. Pack the rillettes into a jar (a canning jar is traditional) or bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and chill for at least 2 hours – you want it to be firm – or for up to overnight.


About Trevor Kensey

To be truthful, I don't know what “Sis. Boom. [blog!]" means either. The name implies something explosive just happened I suppose I would like it if each post would make made a small 'boom' in your day or at least a fizzle. Even though a recipe is included with every post I have a hard time calling this a "food blog" or even myself a "food blogger".

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  1. Oh dear Trevor, you have never been to a New York Italian wedding where goodbyes go on FOREVER…..

  2. I think my Irish is showing as I’m definitely not one for long goodbyes. Time to open my cookbook to salmon rillettes again—I could live off the stuff (on or off toast!).

  3. Great post Trevor – I laughed in recognition at the various types of goodbyes. I am a fan of Irish goodbyes where I feel no-one could give a toss whether I was there or not, despite my pangs of guilt at feeling impolite (according to the social conventions drilled into me). I am not sure I would survive too many Persian goodbyes – I would keep checking my watch! Before Dorie, I had never heard of rillettes; now, when I see them on the menu (which is rarely), I go for them. A couple of months back, I had rabbit rillettes in Bendigo – delish.

    • I have never heard of rabbit but if you can make them out of tuna why not? My gourmet market will only SOMETIMES have pots of pork rillettes for the taking and I always take more than my share.

  4. I love the rillettes, I forgot about the crab ravioli… I loved that.. good time of year to revisit that gem. As far as goodbye’s are concerned I have lately tried to get away with the Queen Elizabeth wave. I have decided that I have had enough of the crushing hugs Americans bestow upon everyone one saying hello and goodbye.

    • Right? Too many people hug. But then this is the WASP in us my dear, isn’t it? Avoiding the hug is yet another good reason sport the Irish goodbye. Persians at least have the good sense to offer air kisses on each cheek. No touching, please.

  5. a great homage to the salmon rillettes! I loved that recipe! I think it will be a great one for a party I’m throwing for a soon to be three-year-old in my house 🙂

    goodbyes are always awkward for me, even if I’m going to see the person the next day!

  6. TheKitchenLioness says:

    Trevor, a truly stunning recipe and certainly most worthy of making it again and again – your pictures are outstanding!

  7. Gorgeous Trevor – and I had to laugh “Had she understood to put the crab IN BETWEEN some avocado her tiny kitchen could have been the toast of Paris!” Indeed! (I didn’t quite “get” that recipe when we did it!). I’m terrible at goodbyes too so I am liking and needing this process to be drawn out like it is!

  8. Hilarious, as always. Good thing we’re not saying goodbye. I never really thought about how many different sorts there can be. Mine resemble Persian ones. Must be the touch of Italian in my blood. And I’m guilty of the crushing hugs Diane is done with.

    Dorie’s rillette recipes were all winners, especially your repeater. I love to make pork rillettes in the wintertime.

    See you in a few weeks.

  9. I enjoyed all the different ways to say goodbye. I am not good at any of them. I don’t like goodbyes! We have an aunt like your Aunt Charlotte who insists on lip kissing:) Our sons make elaborate escape plans to avoid the lip kiss which usually involves one of them doing an Irish goodbye while she has the other in a lip lock:) Your photos are gorgeous, as usual! Looks like stuff you put on toast!:)

  10. I LOVE this post and I can so relate! I myself am partial to the Irish goodbye, though I’ve never heard that term for it before. I also fully defend this sort of leave taking as the more logical approach at larger gatherings. Unfortunately, as my husband has had to point out several times, such behavior would be considered the height of rudeness in Germany. The goodbyes here are not quite as prolonged as the Persian sort, but I could swear that they come darn close. The other side of that is also the hellos, because it would also be considered rude not to walk around and greet everyone (even those you don’t know) when entering a party. The French carry this a step further into the workplace. When I was working there a few years ago I noticed after a week or so that I was the only one in the office who did not go around to greet everyone when they came in, and go around to say goodbye to everyone when they left. Luckily it was a small office and so I quickly adopted the custom.

  11. You KNOW how I feel about goodbye’s – always leave them wanting more.

    It’s never truly goodbye, though, is it? Like bad pennies, Doristas always turn up. XO

  12. All these goodbyes are making me happy that I have twenty or so catch ups to do. It won’t really be goodbye until that’s all done, will it? The salmon rillettes are a favourite of mine, too. I heartily agree that half should be kept hidden in the fridge, as they disappear quite quickly. Your version of the avocado ravioli look beautiful, but I think I prefer your Grandmother’s presentation most of the time.

  13. I will have to make these salmon rillettes again. I did not get to eat salmon in Alaska, which is weird as it is the salmon capital.