For this recipe from Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food,, Chef Jody Williams took her inspiration from Thomas Keller's well-loved salmon rillettes, which she learned to make during her time under him at his by-gone West Village restaurant, Rakel. Her rillettes likewise use both steamed and smoked salmon, as many versions do, which makes for a lovely blend of flavor and texture. Hers also incorporate cooked shallots, like Keller's, and employ crème fraîche for a touch of tang.
Though equally sumptuous and swanky, Williams' version does differ from the Grand Master's in some key ways, however. She omits Keller's egg yolks and ups the crème fraîche, and she adds garlic and horseradish to the pan with the shallots, which, along with lemon juice, serve to lighten and brighten the rillettes. Don't misunderstand—though lightened, these are far from light. The fatty fish, crème fraîche, and half a stick of butter see to that. But it's just kicky enough to make it all too easy to go back for one more bite, and then you're left staring at an empty space where rillette used to be.
Why I picked this recipe: Salmon rillettes are usually so simple and so classy—a combo that's hard to beat.
What worked: This recipe was indeed straightforward and elegant. And quickly devoured. It has an equal amount of fresh and smoked salmon, while most rilletes of this ilk have a smaller proportion of smoked. I liked the stronger smokiness with the mellow bite of horseradish. The generous portion of crème fraîche also helps evoke lox-and-a-schmear in the best of ways.
What didn't: Just my preference, but I would have liked even more horseradish. She gives the option of using her recipe for horseradish pickled with sherry vinegar, and I do think that would be even better than the fresh-grated variety.
Suggested tweaks: Without the horseradish, you could use her recipe as a fantastic base to personalize as you choose. Some chopped capers or any number of fresh herbs would be delicious, like dill, tarragon, or chives. A little heat from a serrano chili would be nice, too.
Excerpted from the book Buvette by Jody Williams. © 2014 by Jody Williams. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.
- Yield:Serves 4
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 1/4 pound center-cut wild salmon
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Coarse salt
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 small shallot, peeled and finely diced
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated horseradish
- 1 small garlic clove, finely minced or puréed on a Microplane grater
- 1/4 cup crème fraîche
- 1/4 pound smoked salmon, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Freshly ground white pepper
- Melted clarified butter (optional)
- Leafy greens and grilled toast, for serving
Prepare a steamer for cooking. If you do not have a steamer, fill a large pot with an inch of water, place a small bowl in the center of the pot, and rest a dinner plate on top of the bowl. Bring the water to a boil and, voilà, you’ve got a steamer!
Meanwhile, remove and discard the pin bones, skin, and all the dark connective tissue from the salmon. Rub the salmon with the olive oil and season liberally with salt. Place the salmon in the steamer, or on your plate-as-steamer, cover, and cook until it’s just barely cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the salmon to a plate to cool down; it will continue to cook as it cools.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot, horseradish, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Set them aside to cool.
Put the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a bowl and whip it with a whisk until it’s creamy. Beat the crème fraîche and the shallot mixture into the butter. Fold in the diced smoked salmon. Gently break the cooked salmon apart and fold it into the mix. Add the lemon juice and season the mixture with salt and white pepper.
The rillettes are now ready to be served, or they can be packed into crocks, topped with clarified butter, covered, and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Serve at room temperature with leafy greens and grilled toast.