(Updated) As I’ve mentioned before, I love salmon. Having grown up for a time in British Columbia, I was spoiled with great fresh salmon cooked a multitude of ways, with each way a pleasure to enjoy. This dish is just another delicious way for me (and my guests) to enjoy salmon.
Traditional rillettes, which use pork belly or shoulder, is a simple rustic fare readily found throughout France, but virtually unknown on this side of the Pond. The salmon rillettes recipe featured below is a fresh take on a classic dish and is based on Jacques Pépin’s recipe which he demonstrated on one of his shows, Heart & Soul.
I’ve changed it only slightly – after all, how can you improve on a master’s work! I like the taste of Canadian whole seed mustard (Kozlik’s is the brand I use) as it reminds me of the mustard-crusted grilled salmon I had growing up in British Columbia. And, for the smoked salmon I prefer hot-smoked salmon (the kind that flakes or crumbles) rather than cold-smoked salmon or lox (doesn’t flake). I find the hot-smoked provides more flavor. Having said that, perhaps it’s a memory of younger days going down to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver and snacking on salmon candy.
Salmon rillettes makes a great appetizer or hors d’oeuvres to serve while hosting guests. Then again, you don’t need guests to justify making it, as it can keep for weeks in the fridge, as the ghee or clarified butter makes a great seal. To serve, simply spread it on slices of toasted baguette or crackers. This is a dish with few ingredients, yet is simply sublime. Try it for yourself!
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp. very finely chopped shallots
- 4 ounces fresh salmon, skinless, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 ounces hot-smoked salmon, crumbled
- 1 tsp. horseradish
- 1 tsp. whole seed mustard (Kozlik’s Canadian Mustard)
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 Tbsp. ghee or clarified butter
- 1 baguette, sliced and toasted or crackers
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When fully melted, add the finely chopped shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.
- Pat the salmon dry, cut into cubes and add to the saucepan, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 2 minutes. The salmon should be barely cooked in the center and still a little pink. Remove from heat.
- In a bowl, use a fork to break apart the sautéed salmon into a coarse mixture. Add the crumbled hot-smoked salmon, horseradish and mustard, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Divide the mixture among two small ramekins or in another small container (I like to use a small glass canning jar as in the photo above). Pat down with the back of a spoon, then place in the freezer for 5 minutes to cool.
- Melt the ghee in the microwave for about 20 seconds (alternatively, you can prepare clarified butter by melting butter and skimming off the milk solids). Allow to cool slightly but still melted, then pour over the top of the salmon rillettes to form a seal. Return to freezer for 5 minutes to allow the ghee to solidify. The rillettes will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator if sealed.
- To serve, let the rillettes warm to room temperature. This allows the salmon and butter to soften a little, making it easier to spread over toasted slices of baguette or crackers, and it brings out the flavors.