Rillettes is a method of preserving meat—usually pork, duck, or goose—in fat. It can keep in the refrigerator (or a cool larder in the good old days) for several weeks if the surface is completely covered to keep bacteria from developing. Salmon rillettes, using butter-basted fresh king salmon and hot smoked salmon if you have it, makes an elegant appetizer that gets better as it sits in the fridge—just not for several weeks.
- 1 portion king salmon (8 to 10 ounces), skin and pin bones removed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ¼ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- 4 ounces hot-smoked salmon, skinned and flaked (optional)
- Crackers, toasted bread, or potato chips for serving
COOK THE SALMON
Season the salmon with salt and pepper and set aside at room temperature for 10 minutes.
In a medium cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the seasoned salmon and thyme sprigs and cook until the underside is lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fish and add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Cook, continuously spooning the butter over top, until the fish is just cooked through and the butter is nutty brown, 3 to 5 minutes longer, depending on the thickness. Transfer the fish to a small bowl and discard the thyme stems.
FLAKE THE SALMON
Off the heat, add the 1 tablespoon lemon juice to the skillet, then pour it into the bowl with the cooked salmon. Let cool slightly. Using 2 forks, gently flake the salmon.
FINISH THE RILLETTES
In a medium bowl using a fork, beat together the cream cheese, crème fraîche, chives, and mustard until smooth. Gently stir into the brown butter salmon, adding the smoked salmon if using. Season with lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
Serve with crackers, toasted bread, or potato chips alongside.
Ready to try this recipe?
Shop our seafood boxes for next week delivery.Shop Seafood Boxes
Pair it Up
Rillettes are equally delicious on a brunch menu or at a cocktail party. Lean in to either and serve with a pitcher of bloody marys or a chilled bottle of sparkling rosé.
Level it Up
Add 2 smashed garlic cloves and 2 dried whole chiles to the skillet with the salmon to infuse the butter with heat and even more flavor. Discard them with the thyme sprigs.
Change it Up
Salmon rillettes can be refrigerated for up to 4 days if the surface is completely covered with plastic wrap or melted butter, but chances are, this will be gone in one sitting.
Lighten it Up
This is richness in a bowl. Make peace with it and eat a salad alongside.
Know Your Cook
Culinary Director Grace Parisi is a cook, writer and cookbook author. Formerly the Senior Test Kitchen Editor at Food & Wine Magazine and Executive Food Director at TimeInc Books, her work has appeared in Cooking Light, Health, O Magazine, Epicurious, Fitness, Today, Serious Eats, Martha Stewart, and many more. She’s the author of more than 6 books, among them The Portlandia Cookbook and Get Saucy, which was nominated for a James Beard award for Best Single Subject Cookbook.