I have a long, deep love for salmon. My family has high cholesterol in our genetics, overactive livers and such. Despite being active, thin children, we Jordans were six rambunctious, wild children who needed their omega-3s. A couple of times a year from the time I was six, we would have to skip breakfast and get our blood drawn to determine our triglyceride levels. Afterward, we would go to Hardees and get cinnamon raisin biscuits. It was the only time we were ever allowed to have the naughty little treats but it made the whole thing worthwhile.
It is fortunate my father had a good job because the grocery bill was beyond outrageous at our household. Salmon made it’s way to our table probably on a weekly basis as it’s pretty simple and quick done several ways, essential parts to cooking for a pack of young children. My grandfather, and now father and brothers also have gone to Alaska fishing and always come home with bag after bag of salmon and halibut filets. It is delicious.
I was captivated by this recipe because it combines several of my life loves: poached salmon, wine, (a little) butter, smoked salmon, and pink peppercorns. If you’ve never had pink peppercorns, they are worth seeking out but not absolutely essential to the recipe. They taste like a very mild chili pepper with a little fruitiness to them. And they are pretty.
Rillettes are a French food that is often made with pork and a lot of fat. What I like about this dish is that smoked salmon is more tender so less fat is needed to make the rillettes soft. Using wine to poach the uncooked salmon adds incredible amounts of flavor. I fell much more in love with French food on our honeymoon to Cannes and the French Riviera. I had an appreciation for French food before we went but from the trip I gained an appreciation of the French way of dining. Leisure is the main ingredient and it suited me well. I left France thinking that perhaps they had a higher quality of life than in the United States because they somehow get that all the hustle and bustle is all a waste.
There is this charming little hill in Cannes near most of the hotels, a narrow alleyway for pedestrians. There are probably thirty quaint French restaurants there beckoning you to sit down, enjoy the escargot or sea bass. They only serve three course meals, which of course you need to order with a bottle of wine.
This dish is best eaten the French way, with crusty bread, with wine, and with a good friend and time to watch the day fade into the night.
- 1 lemon
- 1 small red chile pepper
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ cup water
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 white peppercorns
- 5 coriander seeds
- 2 scallions
- 8 ounces salmon, cut into ½ inch chunks
- 6 ounces smoked salmon cut into ¼ inch pieces
- freshly ground white pepper
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon ground or crushed pink pepper
- Remove a strip of lemon peel (set aside lemon) and place strip of peel in medium saucepan. Add wine, water, bay leaf, white peppercorns, coriander seeds, ½ teaspoon salt and green portions of scallions (set aside whites of scallions for later) to saucepan.
- Remove seeds of red chile pepper and add small slice of red chile pepper to pan, finely chop rest of red chile pepper and save for later.
- Over medium heat bring wine, water and spices to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes. Drop cubes of fresh salmon into pan, cover, and poach for about one minute until cooked through. Remove from heat, strain salmon to get rid of liquid, remove vegetables.
- In a medium bowl mash poached salmon. Add chopped smoked salmon, remaining lemon peel finely zested, finely chopped red chile, white portion of scallions finely chopped and crusted pink peppercorns.
- Season with salt and ground white pepper and stir to combine. Add room temperature butter and mix well. Add lemon juice of half of the lemon, stir. Add more salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
- Cover with plastic and refrigerate for a couple hours before serving with bread or crackers.