Welcoming in 2009 with Salmon Rillettes.

It’s been a nice, long and relaxing break.  We hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!  It’s good to be back, but it’s difficult to write about food when all you can think about is avoiding it for a bit to detox from the holidays.  This holiday season we ate like kings, we drank a lot of booze and we took very little exercise. We also played plenty of Boggle, Trivia Pursuit and Clue (hey, we were holed up on a family vacation in the mountains).  The few times I have sweated in the last few days, it has been thick and almost seems as though animal fat was seeping out of my skin.  Basically, it’s time for a break.

Smoked Salmon Rillette with Fennel Salad

But, reminiscing about skinnier times, I must say that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were very delicious.  And, as Heather says, “Catholic much?”.  Yes, we try to incorporate as much fish into our Christmas meal as possible and one starter we had on Christmas Day was this fabulously easy and mildly decadent Salmon Rillettes.  Many know this traditional French “spread” to be made primarily with pork but also with duck, rabbit, chicken or other types of meat, and is often made with tuna or salmon.  Meat rillettes are made by cooking the meat slowly in fat so that it is so tender it almost melts or shreds and is then blended with the cooking fat so that is is able to be spread, once cooled, on pieces of bread.  One day we’ll do a meat rillette for the blog but, until then, give this tasty (and easier to make) salmon version a whirl.  Don’t be afraid of the butter content and ease your worries about eating raw egg by buying cage free and organic.  It needs fat and is supposed to be eaten in small quantities, so enjoy it – but maybe you should wait until after your post-holiday purge?

Smoked Salmon Rillette with Fennel Salad

SALMON RILLETTES (adapted from Bistro by G. Hiriqoyen) – serves six to eight


  • 1 3/4 pound (or 12 oz.) piece of salmon, skin removed
  • 7 oz. of smoked salmon
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz.) of unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 eggs (the freshest possible), beaten
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, chopped very fine using a blender or food processor
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives
  • optional: 2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 tablespoon chopped capers
  • salt and pepper

What to do:

  1. Season your salmon filet with salt and pepper, place in a steaming basket, cover and steam over gently boiling water. You could also poach the salmon in  a few inches of water, covering the salmon.  Cook salmon until it is firm to the touch, about 9 minutes.
  2. Remove salmon and put in a bowl and shred the salmon with a fork.  It may be easier to just use your fingers, but shred so that pieces are not shredded finely but will give the rillette some texture.  Cover and refridgerate to cool.
  3. Place the room temperature butter in a bowl and, using a rubber spatula, “work” it till it’s smooth and creamy. Add the lemon juice, chives, capers, fennel and fennel fronds and mix together well.  Now add the beaten egg, only adding half at first, then mixing.  If you feel it’s still kind of “dry”, add 1/4 more of it.  Personally, I thought it was too wet with 2 whole beaten eggs, so see what works best for you.
  4. Cut the smoked salmon into small pieces, about 1 inch “strips” so that they are similar in size to the shredded pieces.  Add the cooled fresh salmon and the smoked salmon pieces to the butter mixture and mix together thoroughly until it is completely incorporated together.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper and more lemon juice if necessary.
  5. Put in one big ramekin or individual ramekins (about 2 tablespoons per ramekin) and allow to chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.  Bring to room temperature before serving and serve with toasted slices of baguette.

30 thoughts on “Welcoming in 2009 with Salmon Rillettes.

  1. yee haw chick!!! sure miss you guys coming by!!! imma make you a priority this year since i love ur blog and ur travel stories… 🙂 i was just taking today to my friend who looooves salmon and his absoulte fave so i’m going to make this for him soon.

    happy new year! and yay to bustelo! (but can you believe it’s been 9 days since i’ve had any!!?!–i got sick with the flu and lost my appetite for it; haven’t regained it!)

  2. Welcome back from Boggle and Trivial Pursuit!
    Happy New Year! I know how you feel with wanting to detox, but will I do it? or keep eating, cooking and blogging? hmmm.

    I make almost the same smoked salmon app, but along with the chopped capers I add chopped cornichon pickle. I have never thought to call it rillette, but that makes perfect sense!

    Looking forward to your posts in 2009.
    Stacey Snacks

  3. The salmon looks delicious and so artfully posed! Hope you’ll take part in my Culinary Tour Around the World. Check out the destinations and meet me in one!
    Happy new year to the 2 of you.

  4. Happy 2009! Aah, detox. I really should give that a go. Sigh.

    I love love your Salmon Rillettes (fennel, yum!) but the raw egg AARGH that’s just too scary for me to contemplate.

  5. Thanks so much for posting the recipe. I just had Salmon Rillettes for the first time last night (at Palate Food & Wine). LOVED IT. Can’t wait to try making it at home. Happy New Year!

  6. I’m not in the least offended by the amount of unsalted butter used for this starter or the raw egg content. Dee is younger than me and is careful about consuming raw eggs!
    This would have been a huge hit in my house, especially as two of us don’t particularly like to eat too much meat over the holiday.
    Happy New Year from a very cold, frosty and snowy UK!!

  7. Thanks for sharing this recipe I’ve had duck rillettes before but never salmon – it sounds delicious and I am looking forward to giving it a try! Best wishes on a great 2009!

  8. I love Boggle, and am something of a champ at it in these parts. Now you know something about me.

    I’ve been meaning to make chicken rillettes (or the more colloquial “potted” chicken) for awhile now, but I think I’ll heed your advice and wait for the post-holiday purge.

  9. Happy New Year Amy & Jonny…lots of good eats this year. The rillettes are a great start. I’m love smoked salmon and this offers a nice twist without diminishing the ingredient. Gang way…I scooping in!

  10. Simply scrumptious! And I like to live dangerously, so bring on the raw egg!

    Pray tell, how does one measure out 1/2 of an egg?

  11. Jensenly – that is a question for the ages. I shall defer to my wife who made the dish, but you get bonus points for reading the recipe. We were convinced nobody did.

    Peter / Peter – happy new year to you too! just as soon as we’ve had a week’s purge we’ll be looking forward to another year of gourmand-ery.

    Heather – the boggle gauntlet has now been thrown down. there must be an online version we can geek out to together. and, potted chicken, eh? it’s great stuff. in fact, my grandmother who died of a massive stroke used to swear by potted chicken or potted shrimp on toast for breakfast every day. This predeliction and the circumstances of her death are, I’m sure, pure coincidence.

    Dee – raw egg’s not such a huge deal, think homemade mayonnaise or (faux) alioli, but salmonella is rather serious. Organic and cage-free eggs are typically safer, but you’re right, there is no safe raw egg, though, and not to be too cavalier about it, you take your life in your hands everytime you get behind the wheel of a car…

    Stacey/MLB – it must be telepathy, or something, either that or great minds think alike!

    Bren – welcome back and glad you’re feeling better. you won’t stay away from bustelo for long, I’m sure!

  12. This looks unreal. I only learned about rillettes last year when the chick from French Food at Home made it on the Food Network. It amazes me how some spreadable meat packed in fat (rillettes) seems delicious while others (spam) seem repulsive. This dish looks tasty and also beautiful.

  13. Ok, Jen. Amy here.

    This is an EGG-celent question (see what I did there?). I actually thought about that as I typed up the recipe. See, what I did, and I should be clearer in the recipe, is I beat two eggs together then only used about 1/2 to 3/4 of the beaten mixture. I thought that two whole eggs made the mixture too wet, so maybe I should ask everyone to eyeball it.

    You get the award for the reader who really read! Congrats, and thank you!! I’m going to edit the recipe now…

  14. Ok – I will come clean…I am OBSESSED with EVERYTHING you guys write, photograph or upload on iTunes, hence my attention to your recipe details and listening to the entire French Laundry podcast.

    It’s a good thing that I live in CA, otherwise I’d probably be stalking you both…….mwahahaha!

  15. Looks really good and perhaps not quite as bad for you as using pork? Thanks for your very nice comment BTW. I also wanted to tell you that if I had to pick my favourite 5 blogs, yours would be amoung them. Happy New Year!

  16. This is one great posting love the idea behind this recipe. The colour of the “potted salmon” is so pretty. Thanks for the lovely comments on my blog. I hope the New Year’s purge goes well. I have been eating nothing but fruit, vegetables and fish since NY and feel much better for it. Happy NY to you and your family and friends. Yours Audax from Australia.

  17. I have a strong dislike for fennel but otherwise would love this recipe. Salmon, especially smoked, is so delicious. I love it in omelettes. And on crackers. Heck, I love it simply licked off my fingers!

  18. Love love love Salmon Rillettes but have never made them (just buy them at the market!), but this recipe looks delish! I may just try it. The addition of fennel sounds wonderful. It’s a very elegant dish as well. And butter be damned, the salmon is so healthy! Thanks for the recipe.

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