An elegant spread for your next party, these easy Salmon Rillettes hail from Eric Ripert's Le Bernardin in NYC. A combination of lightly poached fresh salmon and diced smoked salmon is the ultimate example of sophistication. Seafood lovers will flip for this starter.
(This recipe was originally published in October 2013, but was updated with new photos and content in 2020).
I first had the pleasure of enjoying salmon rillettes during lunch at Le Bernardin in New York City. The three Michelin starred restaurant only serves this popular spread during lunch service.
I've dined at Le Bernardin twice for lunch, and both times swooned over the salmon rillettes. It's the perfect start before being wooed by the rest of the meal. If you ever have the opportunity to dine at Le Bernardin, I absolutely recommend it!
Although the food is the absolute star at this seafood forward New York City institution, a celebrity sighting is just as exciting. My sister and I were absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to visit the Le Bernardin kitchen and meet Eric Ripert himself. Dreams really do come true, folks!
Eric Ripert's Salmon Rillettes recipe is available in his Avec Eric cookbook, which I happily own. Considering it comes from one of the best chefs in the world, and one of the best restaurants anywhere, this dish is so straightforward and easy to prepare! The key is to use really good ingredients and not to over dress or over season it.
What are rillettes?
The French term rillettes is traditionally used to describe a preparation of meat similar to pâté. Pieces of meat, usually pork, are slow cooked in fat for many hours, and then shredded and stored in small glass containers. They're then covered in a layer of fat to help preserve them.
You can't apply the same slow-cooked technique to seafood, but you can mimic the concept of shredded meat cloaked in flavorful fat. In this case, the salmon is lightly poached in wine, then combined with diced smoked salmon and mayonnaise which acts as the fat.
When you compare this seafood variation of rillettes to the traditional meat version, this is so much faster and easier!
How to make salmon rillettes
Cut fresh, skinless salmon into 1-inch cubes (PHOTO 1). Add minced shallots to white wine and bring to a boil. Simmer for a couple minutes until the shallots are tender (PHOTO 2). Then, add fresh salmon, and gently poach for another few minutes until just cooked through (PHOTO 3).
Remove the mixture from the heat, and use a slotted spoon to strain out the salmon pieces onto a baking sheet or dish lined with a paper towel. Then, strain the wine and reserve the cooked shallots, and add them to the poached salmon. Cool completely before moving on (it shouldn't take too long since everything is cut up small) (PHOTO 4).
In a mixing bowl add the poached salmon and cooked shallots, diced smoked salmon, mayonnaise, lemon juice, chopped chives, salt and pepper (PHOTO 5). Make sure you don't over dress or over mix. You want the rillettes to be lightly coated in dressing, and somewhat chunky--not a paste or puree (PHOTO 6).
That's pretty much it! It sounds so simple (and it is) but it comes together perfectly. You can make them up to 1 day in advance, and refrigerate them in a covered container until you're ready to serve.
These rillettes are a revelation. They are an excellent starter to any meal, French, seafood-based, or otherwise. Your guests will never know how easy it is to prepare (guests at Le Bernardin never guess either!). It's a far easier way to enjoy some of the gourmet bites at one of the world's best restaurants from the comfort of your own kitchen.
How to serve them
Serve your salmon rillettes with toasted baguette slices. Use a good quality baguette from a local bakery, slice it thinly on the bias, very lightly brush or spray with olive oil on one side, and toast it in a 375 degree F oven for about 10 minutes just until crisp. Guests can scoop salmon rillettes onto the baguette slices to enjoy.
Alternatively you could serve this as a more composed starter, by topping all the baguettes with rillettes (almost like bruschetta or canapés), but I think the serve yourself option is better.
If you have leftovers, use them like you would tuna salad and make a sandwich!
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Channel your inner Eric Ripert and make this delicious recipe for your next party! Let me know in the comments if you give it a try, and don't forget to rate the recipe. Thanks!
- 2 cups white wine
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- 1 pound fresh, skinned salmon fillet cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 ounces smoked salmon diced
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Toasted baguette slices for serving
- Combine the white wine and shallots in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium-low heat until the shallots are tender, about 2 minutes.
- Add the salmon pieces and poach until they are just barely opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the salmon pieces from the wine and immediately drain them on a baking sheet lined with a paper towel. Strain the wine, reserving the shallots. Place the salmon and shallots in the refrigerator to cool completely.
- Combine the poached salmon pieces, reserved cooked shallots, smoked salmon, chives, and the mayonnaise and lemon juice in a stainless steel bowl. There should be just enough mayonnaise and lemon juice to moisten the mixture.
- Gently stir the mixture until thoroughly combined; the salmon will break up a little–do not over-mix or mix too hard or it will become a paste. Season the rillettes with salt and pepper. Serve cold with toasted baguette slices.
- Rillettes can be made 1 day in advance and covered and chilled until needed.
- To make baguette toasts: slice a baguette into about ½-inch thick slices on the bias, arrange on a baking sheet, brush or spray with olive oil, and bake at 375 degrees F for about 10 minutes until lightly toasted.
- If you want more of a smoked salmon flavor in your rillettes, increase the amount of smoked salmon to 4 or 5 ounces. You may need to slightly increase the mayo and lemon juice if you do this.
- Eat leftover rillettes like you would tuna salad, in a sandwich for lunch!
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*