No matter how popular it gets, Napa will always have a place in my heart. When I lived in San Francisco, I'd do day trips there on the regular to check out new wineries and restaurants. And though there are plenty of amazing places, Bouchon Bistro will always be a go-to for me. Every detail feels like France just set up shop in the midst of California wine country: the zinc counter, the bakery next door, and salmon rillettes that are so good I dream about them. Similar to pâté, rillettes are traditionally made by slow cooking pork in its own fat and then mixing it for a seriously decadent spread but at Bouchon they make a seriously swoon-worthy salmon version.
I wanted to give it a more modern, quicker, and slightly healthier twist so I came up with these Smoked Salmon 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.
such as Pernod or another Pastis (optional)
or sour cream
or cold-smoked salmon or a mix of the two
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.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp