These salmon rillettes may require a little patience, but they're so worth the wait! Perfect for spreading on toast or crackers.
- Special Equipment:
- Instant read thermometer
- Mortar and pestle or spice grinder
- 4 to 6 (8-oz) Mason or flip top jars (See tips.)
- 1 pound salmon, thawed
- 1 tablespoon aquavit (or vodka)
- ½ teaspoon whole white peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon whole fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon juniper berries
- 1 whole star anise
- ½ cup salt
- ½ cup sugar
- Zest of 1 lime
- Salmon Rillettes:
- 1 pound salmon, thawed
- 2 teaspoons aquavit (or vodka)
- ½ cup white wine
- ½ lemon, sliced
- 1 shallot, sliced
- 8 ounces salmon gravlax
- 1 pound unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons crème fraîche (or sour cream)
- 2 large egg yolks (or 2 tablespoons mayonnaise)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- ¼ cup finely chopped shallot
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Pat salmon dry, then remove all the pin bones and brush with aquavit or vodka.
In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the peppercorns, fennel seeds, juniper berries, and star anise, shaking the pan until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer toasted spices to a spice grinder or mortar and let cool. Grind very coarsely. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the salt and sugar. Add the lime zest and rub the mixture between your palms to release the citrus oils.
Evenly sprinkle ¼ of the spice mixture into a glass or ceramic dish. Add the fish, skin side down and evenly sprinkle with the remaining spice mixture over the top of the fish. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, the spice mixture will draw out moisture from the salmon which will accumulate in the bottom of the dish. Leave it in the dish while the fish is curing. Gently press the salmon to check firmness. It should feel like a well-done steak. If not firm, cover the salmon and return to the refrigerator for 12 to 24 more hours. Rinse the cured salmon well under cold water and pat dry. Wrap the gravlax loosely in parchment paper and refrigerate at least 4 hours before proceeding.
For Salmon Rillettes:
Pat the thawed, raw salmon (not the cured piece) dry, then remove all the pin bones and brush with aquavit. Season with salt and pepper. Wrap the fish in plastic and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
In a medium skillet, combine the wine, water, sliced lemon, and sliced shallot and heat to 140°F. Add the salmon and gently poach until the meat gently flakes, about 10 minutes. Carefully transfer the salmon to a plate and refrigerate until chilled, about 45 minutes. Remove the skin, then gently break the salmon into large flakes using your fingers.
Unwrap the gravlax and carefully remove the skin. Using a sharp knife, trim any dark flesh (bloodline) on the skinned side of the salmon. Cut an 8-ounce portion from the fillet. Reserve the rest for another use. Slice the gravlax into ¼-inch thick slices then stack the slices and cut into ¼-inch strips. Line up the strips and cut into ¼-inch cubes. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, using a wooden spoon, beat half (2 sticks) of the softened butter until creamy and smooth. Stir in the crème fraîche (or sour cream) and egg yolks (or mayonnaise). Stir in the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, and salt and white pepper. Gently fold in the poached salmon, diced gravlax, finely chopped shallots, chives, and tarragon until evenly mixed.
Carefully spoon rillettes into sterile jars, leaving a ½ inch of space at the top and being careful to remove any air pockets. Smooth the surface and wipe any excess mixture from the sides and rims of the jars.
To clarify butter, slowly heat the remaining 2 sticks of the butter in a small saucepan until simmering. Spoon off any foam that rises to the surface and discard. Once the solids have settled to the bottom and butter is clear, let cool slightly.
Spoon a thin layer of clarified butter into the jars, completely covering the rillettes to create an airtight seal. Refrigerate to chill. When ready to eat, remove rillettes and allow to come to room temperature before serving. Rillettes should be stored in the refrigerator.
- Remove the pin bones prior to curing because the curing process makes pinbone removal difficult as the meat firms up.
- Do not grind spices into a fine powder because the flavors will intensify in the cure and overpower the fish.
- Most 1-pound fillets will take 24 to 48 hours to properly cure.
- Do not cure fillet for more than 72 hours or the fish will become extremely salty and the texture inedible.
- Cured gravlax will last a week in the refrigerator.
- Rillettes portioned into 4- to 8-oz jars make lovely gifts. Use larger jars if not planning to share.