Salmon Rillettes

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Salmon Rillettes (Wendy Goodfriend)

"Salmon rillettes makes a great hors d’oeuvre or first course, and it will keep for a couple of weeks refrigerated. Here I combine fresh salmon poached in butter with chopped smoked salmon and add a dash of bottled horseradish to the mixture. It is important that the butter used to poach the salmon doesn’t get too hot, so the onions in it don’t fry. I first heat the butter in a microwave oven until it clarifies— meaning the clear part of the butter separates from the milky part. Then some of the clear butter is reserved to coat and seal the little crocks of rillettes, and the rest of the butter, including the milky solids, is used to cook the fresh salmon.

"Be sure you let the chilled rillettes temper for about an hour at room temperature before serving, or the mixture will be too hard. Serve with rice crackers or toast and a dry white wine." --Jacques Pépin

Recipe: Salmon Rillettes

Serves 6 to 8

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons very finely chopped onion
  • 6 ounces boneless, skinless salmon (the belly is best), cut into 11/2-inch pieces
  • 3 ounces sliced smoked salmon, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon bottled horseradish
  1. Heat the butter in a glass measuring cup or a small bowl in a microwave oven for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until the clear part of the butter separates from the milky solids. Reserve 1/4 cup of the clear melted butter to coat the rillettes.
  2. Pour the rest of the melted butter, including the milky part, into a small saucepan. Add the chopped onion and cook gently over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until the onion has softened. Add the fresh salmon and mix well, then reduce the heat and cook, covered, for about 2 minutes. Mix again. The salmon should be barely cooked in the center and still a little pink. Transfer to a plate.
  3. With a fork, crush the poached salmon into a coarse mixture. Transfer to a bowl, add the chopped smoked salmon, salt, pepper, and horseradish, and mix well.
  4. Divide the mixture among three small molds (I use 1/2-cup soufflé molds); the molds should be about three-quarters full. Smooth the top of each one with the back of a spoon. Pour the reserved melted butter on top. Refrigerate until ready to use. (The rillettes will keep for a couple of weeks in your refrigerator.)
  5. To serve, let the rillettes warm up at room temperature for about 1 hour, so the salmon and butter soften a little. Then stir the top layer of butter into the rillettes and serve.
Jacques on the set of Heart & Soul preparing Salmon Rillettes.
Jacques on the set of Heart & Soul preparing Salmon Rillettes. (Wendy Goodfriend)

Recipe from Heart & Soul in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin. Copyright © 2015 by Jacques Pépin. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.