I recently had the privilege of attending a cooking class at Central Market taught by Dorie Greenspan. This was one of the recipes that she shared with us. First, I’ll talk about the food and then I’ll talk about Dorie. Then I’ll tell you about her new cookbook and how I’m going to give one of you a copy of her cookbook that she was gracious enough to sign after the class.
Rillettes are a French passion. Traditionally they are made with pork and pork fat, seasoned nicely and chopped and mashed into a paste which is served on baguette or other breads. It is a quintessential starter for a French get together. This preparation is made with salmon, which makes it lighter to begin with. The fat which binds it is creamy butter, but not so much that you are distracted by a buttery taste. It is absolutely all about the salmon. The rillettes can be put into ramekins or, more traditionally, lidded jars with hinged lids (as opposed to my oh so down home Kerr jars…but it is all the same). The original rillettes were topped with a layer of fat which enabled them to be stored for long periods of time in the refrigerator. It is served at room temperature. Dorie suggested that even with a layer of butter on top, this salmon variation is best devoured within two days. But, she also taught us that it could be frozen for up to a month, which I think adds a great deal of value. I have found that it is best served cool, but not cold, so that it is nice and spreadable.
This preparation calls for both poached salmon and smoked salmon. She chose to use a lox salmon, while I branched out for a smokier fish. You may choose what you prefer. Be sure to set out your butter before you start so that it is soft and ready to go by the time you put the dish together.
|Salmon Rillettes and Dorie Greenspan|| |
- 1 lemon, for a strip of zest, a few teaspoons of grated zest, and the juice…this lemon will multi-task
- 1 small red chile pepper
- ½ cup dry white wine or vermouth
- ½ cup water
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 white peppercorns
- 5 coriander seeds (I used a pinch of ground coriander)
- 2 small spring onions, finely chopped (reserve tops) or 1 shallot finely chopped
- ½ pound salmon filet cut into small cubes (½ inch)
- 4-6 ounces smoked salmon, cut into small bits (¼ inch)
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon pink peppercorns
- Bread, crackers, or toast for serving
- Cut a small slice of lemon zest with a knife or a vegetable peeler. Put it in a medium saucepan with the wine, water, bay leaf, peppercorn, coriander, ½ teaspoon salt, and the tops of the spring onions if you are using them. Cut off a small piece of the chile pepper and add it to the pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat, cover and simmer the liquid for 5 minutes. Then, drop the fresh salmon into the liquid and let it poach for one minute. Pour it all through a strainer and remove the pieces of salmon to another bowl. Discard the rest.
- Meanwhile, zest the remaining lemon peel. Remove and discard the seeds from the the chile and chop the pepper finely. Allow the salmon to cool a bit.
- Now for the fun part. With the back of a fork, mash up the poached salmon. Add the smoked salmon bits, the lemon zest, the chopped chile, and the onion or shallot. Season with salt and white pepper and stir. Add the butter and mash it in until it is well incorporated and you have a thick spread. Squeeze the juice from half a lemon into the mix and stir it in well. Taste, and add salt, crushed pink pepper and lemon juice as needed.
- Pack the salmon into ramekins or jars and place plastic wrap against the surface of the salmon. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Delicious. If you love smoked salmon, you will really love this because all of the goodies are in it, as opposed to having a dish where all of the toppings must be served on the side.
My husband says you need Triscuits for this. My neighbor Linda thinks thin crackers such as water crackers would be a better choice.
I really wanted to skip the recipe and go right into this. Dorie is an undisputed culinary star. She has published several cookbooks, including one with Julia Child. In fact, she crystallized my favorite Julia attributes during her talk. She said “Julia was not a food snob…she was totally adorable.” And Dorie could have been speaking about herself. Her whole food philosophy seems to be about playing with your food. She said, “I don’t do complicated food.” And the salmon recipe is a perfect example of that. It is elegant but it is basic. And she encouraged us to take her work as a starting point, not a destination. She said a recipe should “provide inspiration.”
She splits her time between Paris and New York. She has an uncanny ability to float between two worlds, the world of the home baker and cook and the world of the high caliber chefs. She has cooked with, learned from, and doubtlessly taught a few things to the names in gastronomy that make one dizzy—Pepin, Ducasse, Child. She has kept the company of the very finest culinary minds and they are a part of her and she is excited to share that. I have a great affinity for cooks who want to share and that don’t act as though they have some proprietary skill set. She wants us to cook with her. She shares and she celebrates. She is one of the most positive, happy, and compelling persons I’ve ever had the privilege to meet.
Here are a few things that I learned from Dorie at her talk:
Rillettes is pronounced “Ree-Yet”.
A French cheese service is laid out in order from the mildest to the strongest.
Never ever cut off the nose of a wedge of brie for yourself (how many times have I done this???) It is considered to be the very finest bit and to do so would be a great affront to a French host or other guest.
If you are enjoying an actual French cheese service, you should take a small bit of each cheese in a manner that leaves the cheese looking simply like a smaller version of what it was when it came to you. The next person shouldn’t be able to discern that you even took a bit. When the cheese has made it around the group it will look like a miniature replica of what it was when the serving began.
Whereas we Americans are apt to say that we are hosting a dinner party when we have a few friends over, lending an air of formality to the event, the French merely say “come home for dinner,” lending an air of informality and placing the emphasis on the people and not the occasion. Everything else just follows naturally because when you are enjoying your guests, everything tastes good.
Even the greatest cooks in the world, like Dorie, have kids who will not eat what they cook. Knowing she had an adult son with whom she recently did a “pop up bakery” in New York, I asked her whether her son was a good eater as a young child when she cooked for him (as my Ford still prefers chicken nuggets and goldfish to anything I make), and she said, “the kid ate nothing…he ate absolutely nothing.” What a lovely person Dorie is. If you get an opportunity to see her while she is out promoting this book, do so. It is a real treat.