Traditionally, rillettes are made with pork that’s been cooked in seasoned fat and whipped into a spread. This elegant salmon version is lighter, but still has a rich flavor. Marinate and steam fresh salmon in the anise-flavored French liqueur Pernod. Mix it with smoked salmon, shallots, and a lemony butter and crème fraîche dressing; pack the spread into single-serving jars to chill; and after an hour, pour a layer of clarified butter on top to preserve the rillettes. When you’re ready to serve, remove the clarified butter, slather the salmon spread on a piece of baguette, and enjoy on a picnic with white wine and a simple salad.
What to buy: Pernod is a bright yellow liqueur that adds a distinct, but not overpowering, licorice flavor to this recipe. It can be found in most liquor stores or online.
Game plan: The clarified butter can be made and refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 week ahead. When you’re ready to use it, melt it over low heat.
The rillettes can be stored in any size jars or ramekins; we like these Weck jars.
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, plus more as needed
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (from about 2 medium shallots)
3 tablespoonscrème fraîche
4 ouncessmoked salmon, small dice and at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1 1/2 medium lemons)
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
Baguette, crackers, or crostini, for serving
Place the salmon fillet in a shallow dish and season both sides with the measured salt and pepper. Add the Pernod and turn the salmon to coat. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Flip the salmon over and refrigerate 30 minutes more.
Meanwhile, clarify the butter. Place 2 sticks of the butter in a small saucepan and melt over low heat without stirring. Using a spoon, skim off and discard the foamy layer of milk solids floating on top. Transfer the clarified butter to a medium bowl and set aside.
When the salmon is done marinating, bring 1 inch of water to a simmer over medium-high heat in a medium frying pan. Using your hands, bunch a long piece of foil so that it looks like a rope. Make a coil out of the foil rope and set it in the pan.
Reduce the heat to medium low, place the salmon fillet on top of the foil coil, and pour the Pernod marinade into the pan. Cover with a tightfitting lid and steam until the flesh in the center of the salmon is just opaque, about 8 to 10 minutes. (If steam pours out of the sides of the pan, lower the heat.) Transfer the salmon to a large plate and set aside.
Discard the foil and liquid, wipe out the pan, and place it over medium heat. Melt 1 tablespoon of the remaining butter until foaming. Add the shallots, season with salt and white pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Place the remaining 7 tablespoons of butter in a medium bowl and, using a rubber spatula, mash it along the sides of the bowl and stir until smooth. Stir in the crème fraîche until combined, then set aside.
Using your hands, break the cooked salmon into large chunks over a large bowl, removing and discarding any skin and dark gray flesh (this part of the fish has an unpleasant taste and will discolor your finished rillettes). Add the smoked salmon, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolks, and cooked shallots and season with salt and white pepper. Stir gently to combine. Fold in the butter–crème fraîche mixture until evenly combined and the salmon is broken into smaller pieces but some texture remains.
Divide the rillettes among 6 (5-ounce) glass jars or ramekins, leaving about 1/3 inch of space at the top. Smooth the top of the rillettes with a rubber spatula or your fingers, wipe the jar rims clean, and refrigerate uncovered until chilled, about 1 hour.
Using all of the cooled clarified butter, pour an even layer (about 1/4 inch) over the rillettes to completely cover them. Cover the jars or ramekins with lids or plastic wrap and refrigerate.
When ready to serve (either chilled or at room temperature), remove and discard the butter layer. Spread the rillettes on bread, crackers, or crostini. (Once the butter is removed, the rillettes can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Rillettes with the butter intact can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)