Rillettes is a dish, usually served as an appetizer, that consists of meat (usually rabbit, duck, or pork, sometimes fish) that is cooked slowly in fat, then pounded with a bit of fat and finally placed in a dish, covered with a layer of fat, and refrigerated for a week or so. To serve, the rillettes is turned onto a plate and spread on toast or bread.

This version of rillettes departs from tradition in that the fish is poached in wine as well as butter; although it is cooked slowly, it is not cooked for long, as it only takes a few minutes to cook it through. The fresh salmon is given a flavour boost by the addition of smoked salmon. In addition, the rillettes is not covered by a layer of fat, so it will only keep for a few days, after which is must be eaten. The result of all this innovation is a fantastically delicious hors d'oeuvre that can be prepared a day in advance and will have your guests in rapture.

What you need to make a big hunk of salmon rillettes

  • 450 gr/1 lb fresh salmon, skinless, cut into 5 cm/2 in cubes
  • 60 ml/4 tblsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 bottle (750 ml/3 c) white wine
  • 4 shallots, sliced
  • 2 strips lemon peel
  • 225 gr/1/2 lb smoked salmon, cut into thin strips
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 30 ml/2 tblsp fresh chives, chopped
  • 15 ml/1 tblsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 30 ml/2 tblsp crème fraîche or sour cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • bread or toast, for serving

What to do

Line a 750 ml/3 c terrine or several small ramekins with plastic wrap, leaving extra over each side.

Melt 30 ml/2 tblsp butter in a 30 cm/12 in frying pan, then add wine, shallots, and lemon peel. Add the fresh salmon and simmer just until cooked, about 2 or 3 minutes - a piece should just flake into 2 pieces if you press it with a wooden spoon. Remove the salmon to a bowl using tongs, trying not to take any of the shallots out of the pan.

Turn the frying pan to medium-high and boil till the liquid is thick and only about 60 ml/1/4 cup remains, about 15 minutes. Strain the reduced liquid through a sieve into the bowl with the salmon and discard the solids in the sieve. Cool 10 minutes.

Add the smoked salmon, lemon juice, chives, dill, crème fraîche or sour cream, and the remaining 30 ml/2 tblsp butter. Using a rubber spatula, begin mashing the ingredients together, beginning with the butter. smear the butter onto the sides of the bowl first; then gently work the rest of the ingredients well into one another. Add salt and pepper to taste, then place in terrine or ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

To serve, use the excess plastic wrap to lift the salmon mixture slightly from the container(s), invert onto a serving dish, and remove the plastic wrap.

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