Monday, March 24, 2008

Smoked and Steamed Salmon Rillettes

Starting with this post, I'm going to add a new feature to each new adventure of Cooking Bouchon. Somewhere, somehow I'm going to document the the 'firsts' that I encounter during that particular session in the kitchen. The new stuff is the most challenging and the most interesting to me, being that I started this whole activity mostly for my own education and edification. Now on to Smoked and Steamed Salmon Rillettes.

First, Keller's introduction provides us with the usual insight into both how the cooking should be approached as well as the final dish itself. Here we get a little lesson on rillettes (First #1). For the uninitiated like me, rillettes are typically meat mixed with its own fat served as a spread. I've heard of pork and rabbit rillettes, but not of salmon ones until now. This might be in part due to the next statement of truth from Keller. Salmon, while fatty as fish may go, is certainly not pork. Because of this lack of fat, we're going to put some butter in this sucker. Last up, a little lesson on steaming raw salmon. I don't have any kind of steamer other than a vegetable steamer, so that's what got used. Another proposed option is poaching the salmon in court bouillon. Court bouillon, by my count of Keller's recipe, requires 14 ingredients. Granted, some of these everybody in the world has laying around their kitchens (water), but that's a ton of work to poach a half pound salmon filet. Vegetable steamer it is for me.

Ok, some actual food. The only modifications I made to the recipe were to cut the yield in half and to not marinate the salmon in Pernod. I've never actually cooked with Pernod, but I am not a fan of anything that even remotely tastes like anise, licorice, or any thing similar. So that was out. Everything else was by the book.

The recipe calls for salmon filet, smoked salmon, shallots, creme fraiche, lemon juice, eggs, butter, and chives. And some basic seasonings, but I don't give away entire recipes here, remember?

What, you don't see the chives there? That's because I totally forgot about them until I was about three rillettes in right before dinner. We ate them with chives, but you're not going to see any pictures with chives in them around here. Ok, if you really want to see some chives, head over to the asparagus post.

First up is to steam the salmon (First #2). This took all of about four minutes for me. This was probably because I had halved the recipe and then halved that piece of salmon to fit into my little vegetable steamer. It came out medium-rare, as directed, and not eating all of it right then was a bit of a challenge. While all of this was going on, I sauteed up some shallots in a tablespoon of butter.

Now for the fat. What? I just talked about a tablespoon of butter? That's not fat. How about throwing in another stick and and mashing it around. That's fat. Once that's nice and creamy looking, in goes some creme fraiche (First #3).

Everything gets combined in a bowl in some pre-determined order so that the fish doesn't get absolutely pulverized, and then transferred into glass crocs. In my case there were two crocs, one to be eaten in a couple of hours and one to be sealed with clarified butter (First #4) for later enjoyment. Here's a picture of the results:

And one step closer to my mouth:

Now it's not the most visually pleasing dish of them all, but it's probably one of the best I've made so far, save possibly the desserts. It was smoky, salmon-y, and creamy. You could make a meal out of it fairly easily. That might not be the healthiest option, but it would be delicious. So, here's a recap of the new things:
  1. Rillettes. I'd never really even heard of them, except for a possibly skimming over in Bourdain's book.
  2. Steaming salmon. I hadn't done this before either, and it turned out to be very easy. I was a bit wary of getting the doneness right, but it was pretty easy. And deliciously moist and tasty.
  3. Using creme fraiche. I've eaten it before, but never cooked with it. Not much else to say here.
  4. Clarified butter. I'd never made it before. I was worried that skimming the junk off of the top would be difficult, but it really wasn't. It was pretty easy in fact. You want to see the rillettes, sealed with clarified butter? Are you sure? Ok then:

How great of a picture is that? That really is it, I swear. Here it is from a bit of a better angle:

In a few days I'll crack open that top layer, and enjoy that butter-soaked salmon in the middle. If I'm feeling healthy and hungry I may even go for the plain old rillettes at the bottom. Mmm, rillettes.


Anonymous said...

FYI, the full recipe is posted on the LA Times website:,0,1307620.story

mike said...

Thanks for the info. I don't post the exact recipes because I believe people should get (and enjoy) the whole book, but I assume the LA Times got permission, so give it a shot!