Why It Works
- Gently cooking the salmon results in extra-tender and juicy fish that shreds easily.
- Sautéing the shallots in butter first softens them and sweetens their flavor.
While often made with pork, the French spread called rillettes is even more elegant (and easy) to make with salmon. This recipe folds poached and shredded salmon with mayo, cooked shallots, chives, and a touch of spices. It requires no special equipment, so you can whip it up in no time for a fancy hors d'oeuvre.
- 1 1/4 pounds (550g) boneless, skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces (see note)
- Cold water
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) juice from 1 lemon, plus juice from 1 lemon, divided (see note)
- 1 medium leek or onion (about 6 ounces; 170g), halved (see note)
- 1 large stalk celery (about 2 ounces; 55g), cut into large pieces (see note)
- 1 bay leaf (see note)
- 2 ounces unsalted butter (1/2 stick; 55g)
- 1/4 cup minced shallot (about 4 small, 1-ounce/30g shallots)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (90ml) mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) minced chives
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seed
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Toasts or crackers, for serving
In a large saucepan, combine salmon with enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add juice from 1 lemon, leek or onion, celery, and bay leaf (if using). Set over medium heat and bring poaching liquid to 170°F, using an instant-read thermometer if you have one; otherwise, bring liquid to just below a bare simmer. Adjusting heat to maintain water temperature, cook until salmon flakes easily when pressed, about 6 minutes. Drain, discard aromatics, and transfer salmon to a mixing bowl. Using your fingers, shred salmon roughly.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat, add shallot, and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Scrape shallots and butter into bowl with salmon. Add mayonnaise, chives, remaining 2 tablespoons (30ml) lemon juice, coriander seed, and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well until ingredients are thoroughly mixed and salmon is more finely shredded.
Transfer rillettes to a large ramekin, crock, or other container, pressing down with a spoon and working it into the corners and against the walls to avoid trapping any air bubbles. Press plastic against the surface and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours. Serve with toasts or crackers. Rillettes can keep refrigerated for up to 5 days with plastic pressed firmly against the surface.
Look for salmon that has a good amount of fat in it, which more often than not means farmed salmon; a piece of fillet with plenty of the belly flap attached is best, since the belly has the most fat. Cooking the fish in water with lemon juice and aromatics, known as a court bouillon, improves flavor, but in this recipe, you can use just water with very little change in the flavor of the finished dish. (If not using the court bouillon, you will still need 2 tablespoons lemon juice for the final mixture.)