Rillettes are a staple of charcuteries all over France; you can find them packed into crocks and can buy them by the heaping spoonful.
These days, rillettes are made with a variety of ingredients, from canned sardines and tuna to chicken and mackerel, smoked and fresh. And where the potted meats had to cook for hours, the new rillettes are quickly made and need just a couple of hours in the fridge to set their texture.
My rillettes use slivered smoked salmon and chunks of poached fresh salmon. (Recently, faced with no access to my favorite fishmonger, I made the rillettes with frozen wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, and they were great.) The salmon is poached for a minute in wine and water, left covered for 10 minutes and then chilled briefly. Once united, the smoked and fresh salmon are made spreadable with the addition of softened butter and mayonnaise; spicy with togarashi (you can use ground cayenne pepper) and gochujang; tangy with rice vinegar and lemon; sharp with scallions and shallots; and herbal with cilantro.
With something this simple, there's plenty of room to play around. Dill is just as good as cilantro, and seaweed flakes are interesting; clementines can stand in for lemon (they're sweeter, of course, so you might want a splash more vinegar); Sriracha can bump the gochujang, but be careful, because it's hotter; and if you want crunch, consider tossing in toasted sesame seeds.
I'm going dressy, serving a scoop of rillettes on a plate with a slice of smoked salmon, brioche and a wedge of lemon. My usual is a whole lot less fancy: I pack the mix in a preserving jar and nibble at it from morning to midnight, spreading it on whatever I've got at hand, including Triscuits, wheat crackers, baguette, rye bread, endive and celery stalks.
DORIE GREENSPAN'S FRANCO-ASIAN SALMON RILLETTES
SERVINGS: 6 or 7 (makes about 2 cups)
You'll need an 8-by-8-inch baking pan; a metal pan makes it easier to unmold the cookie slab.
MAKE AHEAD: The salmon can be poached and refrigerated a day in advance. The rillettes need to be refrigerated in an airtight container for at least 6 hours and up to 2 days.
The Japanese spice blend togarashi is available at some large supermarkets and at Asian markets.
• 2 scallions
• 1 lemon
• 1/2 cup white wine or dry white vermouth
• 1/2 cup water
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar
• Togarashi (Japanese spice blend; may substitute ground cayenne pepper; see headnote)
• Fine sea salt
• 6 to 8 ounces salmon fillets, skin and bones removed (see headnote)
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 small shallot, rinsed in cold water and patted dry, then minced (1 tablespoon)
• 4 ounces smoked salmon, cut into small squares
• 1/4 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise
• 1 to 2 teaspoons gochujang (Korean chili paste; may substitute Sriracha)
• About 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
Trim the scallions, then mince the white and light-green parts. Toss the dark-green scallion stalks into a medium saucepan along with a thin slice of the lemon.
Add the wine or vermouth, the water, 1 tablespoon of the rice vinegar, a small pinch of togarashi and a pinch of salt to the saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Drop the salmon into the liquid, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat; let the fish rest (covered, in the pot) for 10 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer the salmon to a plate. Discard the cooking liquid. The fish will cooked and will gently flake apart, at this point. Refrigerate for 20 minutes (or up to 1 day; cover if refrigerating overnight).
Put the butter in a mixing bowl; beat it with a flexible spatula until it is spreadable. Grate the lemon zest over the butter, squeeze the juice from half of the lemon into the bowl and add the minced scallions, the shallot and a pinch each of salt and togarashi. Blend thoroughly, then stir in the smoked salmon.
Whisk together the mayonnaise, the juice from the remaining lemon half, 1 teaspoon of seasoned rice vinegar and a small pinch each of salt and togarashi in a separate bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the gochujang; taste, and add more if you'd like (Dorie Greenspan likes to add a total of 2 teaspoons); the dressing will be thin. Pour this over the smoked salmon mixture and blend well.
Remove the poached salmon from the refrigerator, cut it into bite-size pieces and gently stir it into the smoked salmon. It's impossible not to crush the poached salmon, but try to keep the mixture as chunky as you can. Taste for salt, togarashi and gochujang, adjusting the seasonings if you'd like, then fold in the chopped cilantro.
You can serve the rillettes now, but the flavor will improve if you pack them into a sealed container and refrigerate for at least 6 hours (or up to 2 days).
Nutrition | Per serving (based on 7, using low-fat mayonnaise): 130 calories, 8 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 330 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar