TIP OF THE DAY: Smoked Salmon Rillettes & Champagne | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures TIP OF THE DAY: Smoked Salmon Rillettes & Champagne | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures
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TIP OF THE DAY: Smoked Salmon Rillettes & Champagne

Rillettes are a classic rustic French preparation of similar to pâté (or the cretons of Quebec), popularized in central France (think Anjou, Le Mans and Tours). Originally made with pork, the meat was cubed or chopped, salted and cooked slowly in the still-warm cooking fat until it is tender enough to be easily shredded.

The shredded meat—originally pork belly or pork shoulder—is mixed with enough of the fat to form a paste or pâté in French, which refers to any cooked ground meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste. The paste was placed in a crock.

The word first appears in writing in 1845. It derives from the Old French rille, meaning a slice of pork (rille dates all the way back to 1480).

Rillettes are typically served at room temperature with bread or toast points—and wine, of course. Long before the current, trendy bacon jam, there were rillettes.

Over time, the technique was applied to other meat and poultry: chicken, duck, game birds, fish (anchovies, salmon, tuna), goose and rabbit. Fish is not actually cooked in the fat, but it is blended with fat to create the paste.

In this recipe from Chef Aida Mollenkamp, was developed for Moët & Chandon to serve with Champagne. You can serve it with any sparkling wine.



Smoked salmon rillettes. Photo courtesy Chef Aida Mollenkamp.


The recipe—Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche, and Fennel Rillettes—requires just 15 minutes or prep time, plus 2 hours of chilling time.

Chef Mollenkamp gave the classic recipe a modern, quicker, and slightly healthier twist, including a double dose of anise flavor from the fennel and the tarragon. The spread has a smoky, sweet anise flavor and is as delicious on a cracker as it on toast for a luxurious sandwich.

Let your imagination wander: We’ve enjoyed the leftovers on toast with scrambled or poached eggs!


Great with smoked salmon rillettes: a magnum of Moët et Chandon Brut Impérial Champagne. Photo courtesy BienManger.com.

Ingredients For 2 Cups (15 to 20 Hors d’Oeuvre Servings)

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup small dice fennel
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves or chives, plus more for serving
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur (see below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon loosely packed lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup crème fraîche*
  • 1 pound hot-smoked and/or cold-smoked salmon
  • Crackers or toasts, for serving
  • Optional: cornichons, pickled onions
    *If you can’t find crème fraîche, you can make it with this recipe, or substitute sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.

    1. MELT the butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the shallots and season with a pinch of salt and a few cranks of freshly ground black pepper. Cook until the shallots are translucent and soft. Set aside to cool slightly.
    2. COMBINE the shallots with the fennel, lemon juice, herbs, Pernod, lemon zest and crème fraîche. Season with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.

    3. BREAK the salmon into bite-sized pieces and fold into the mixture until just combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired. Transfer the rillettes to an airtight container, cover and refrigerate until chilled through, at least 2 hours.

    4. LET the rillettes sit at room temperature for a few minutes before serving so they’re spreadable. Sprinkle with herbs and serve with crackers or toast, along with the cornichons and/or pickled onions. For the best flavor, consume the rillettes within four days of preparation.

    If you don’t have Pernod, you don’t need to spring for a bottle for the tablespoon required here. Instead, you can substitute absinthe, aguardiente, arak (a Middle Eastern liquor like ouzo), ouzo, pastis, raki (a Turkish liquor like ouzo) or Ricard.

    Sambucca, which is anise-flavored, is typically sweetened and thus not right for this recipe.

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