St. Patrick’s Day makes me think of two things. One—drinking. Collegiate co-eds treat the day like a national holiday (I guess, technically, it is a national holiday). Two—my time spent in Ireland at cooking school (“IrELaNd?!?!? For CooKiNg ScHoOL??!? What did you learn how to make, MeAt PiE?!?!”). Yes, I went to Ireland (“IreLaND?!?!!”) for three months (“fOr COOkiNG SchOOL??!”) and all I did was make meat pie (“MeAt Pieeeeeeeeeeeee” *person hyperventilates*), day in and day out, for ninety days. That is all I did.
I know it’s shocking but Ireland actually eats good food, especially when you’re hanging with the likes of Darina Allen. One thing I loved to eat over there was smoked salmon. They really know how to knock it out of the park. None of this vacuum-packed, slimy, fishy mumbo jumbo—we’re talking about straight-from-the-smoke-house, world class, not-messing-around smoked salmon. I can still taste it! It was faaahhhbulous.
So instead of green beer or boiled potatoes or meat (“meeeeeeat pie?!?!?”) pie, I’m going to make smoked salmon rillettes. Originally, rillettes were made by combining fat + shredded tender meat and packing the mixture into jars. Packing the meat in fat had a preserving effect (only the French would come up with this). You spread it on toast like you would spread pate.
Modern day rillettes can break a lot of the preserving rules because I’m not looking to keep this stuff for 4 months. For instance, I’m only going to add 2 tablespoons of butter for my “fat” element (much less than the traditional fat content), and mix in crème fraiche, red onion, lemon zest, lemon juice, and dill to make it taste like a spread worth spreading! And I’m using store bought smoked salmon… sadly I don’t have Frank Hederman’s salmon from his Belvelly Smokehouse outside of Cork, so I had to improvise.
Melt the butter in a small skillet over a medium to high heat. Add the red onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until the onions soften up and turn deep purple. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the onion to cool.
In a medium bowl, toss together the smoked salmon, crème fraiche, lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, kosher salt, and pepper. Stir it with a fork, breaking up the smoked salmon pieces into bits. When the red onions have cooled, mix them in, making sure to use a rubber spatula to scrape all the delicious butter from the pan and into the mixture. Stir it up and put in the fridge to chill.
When you’re getting ready to serve, preheat the oven to 450⁰. Slice off a couple ½”-1” slices from a nice sourdough boule. Cut these slices in halves or quarters and set them on a baking sheet. Toast the bread slices in the preheated oven for 4-5 minutes, until firm but not browned. Serve the rillettes in a small serving bowl with one of those little cheese knives, surrounded by the sourdough toasts. People can help themselves. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup finely diced red onion
- 4 ounces of smoked salmon
- 3 tablespoons crème fraiche
- 2 teaspoons of lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of chopped dill
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Black pepper
- A nice looking sourdough boule
Makes about 1 cup of rillettes