Salmon, Crème Fraîche, and Fennel Rillettes

Midnight in Paris is the next movie that I’m paying homage to as part of my week of Oscars-themed recipes. Since the film flips and flops between modern-day and 1920s Paris, I decided to make a contemporary twist on a classic French recipe.

All you have to do is read two lines of any Lost Generation novel and the romanticism surrounding that era is infectious. It’s hard to deny the quiet elegance of that era — as France recovered from World War 1 and American writers walked the streets looking to escape and find inspiration. That is a lot to translate into finger food, but I immediately thought of the classic French appetizer, rillettes. Similar to a pâté, rillettes are traditionally made by slow cooking pork in its own fat and then mixing it for a seriously decadent spread.

I wanted to give it a more modern, quicker, and slightly healthier twist so I came up with these Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche, and Fennel Rillettes. They’re made by breaking up smoked salmon and folding it together with a double dose of anise flavor from the fennel and the herbs and a dollop of creme fraiche for a touch of decadence. This spread has a smoky, sweet, anise flavor and is as delicious on a cracker as it is between bread for a quick sandwich. And, of course, since this is another recipe I developed for Moët & Chandon, it tastes even better when paired with some chilled champagne.

Aida Mollenkamp Smoked Salmon Rillettes Spread Recipe

Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche, and Fennel Rillettes Recipe

  • Makes: 2 cups (15 to 20 servings as an hors d’oeuvres)
  • Total Time: 15 minutes plus 2 hours chilling time
  • Hands-On Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup small dice fennel
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves or chives, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon loosely packed lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 pound hot-smoked and/or cold-smoked salmon
  • Crackers or toasts, for serving

Instructions

Melt the butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add the shallots, season with a pinch of salt and a few cranks of freshly ground black pepper. Cook until the shallots are translucent and soft; set aside to cool slightly.

Stir the shallots together with the fennel, lemon juice, herbs, Pernod (if using), lemon zest, and crème fraîche. Season with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Break salmon into bite-sized pieces and fold until just combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Transfer rillettes to an airtight container, cover, and refrigerate until chilled through, at least 2 hours.

Let the rillettes sit at room temperature for a few minutes before serving so they’re spreadable. To serve, spread on crackers or toast and sprinkle with herbs. (The rillettes are best when eaten within 4 days.)


Note: If you can’t find crème fraîche, use sour cream or Greek yogurt instead.


This recipe is part of a week of recipes for hosting your own Oscars Viewing Party.

Appetizers // Starters Entertaining Meatless Recipes Seafood Snacks