It’s not often that you find yourself invited to a black tie gala with nothing but a few hours notice. Usually these things come announced weeks in advance with fancy, multi-leafed invitations utilizing the color violet. However, I did find myself at a black tie gala with only a few hours notice which is just enough time to pick up a less “punk,” aka ripped, pair of stockings from the drugstore. Dear readers: the tag line “Because food tastes better when your chef is wearing a ball gown” is NOT a gimmick. I always travel with a ball gown since one never knows what event one might be invited to (or what event one can sneak into) at a moments notice. So it’s not exactly a ball gown that I shove in my suitcase, but a short black thing from Milly that has been to a whole host of fabulous, spontaneous events over the years.
So I found myself at an “industry awards” dinner at one of those hotels that might have been grand once but now looks hilariously outdated. Think large bay windows overlooking the park with horrible regal ropey patterned red and gold carpet. There was a Trader Vic’s in the basement and no I’m not making this up. If you don’t know what Trader Vic’s is then I suggest you find one immediately and order yourself a Mai Tai. Best to check the basements of huge conference hotels in downtown areas of major cities.
If you should find yourself at one of these galas (especially with a moment’s notice) you have one thing to look forward to and that is the unlimited free alcohol. One thing that you should never ever look forward to is the food. Especially the appetizer, which is usually some horrid vegetable puff pastry thing given an unfortunate French moniker like Mille-feuille de haricots verts. That’s French for “a thousand layers of microwaved green beans.” However at this particular hotel-catered gala I was pleasantly surprised by the brilliance of the appetizer: Salmon Rillettes! Simple, elegant and mostly inoffensive. Shaped into a little cylinder and spread with crème fraîche on top and truly delicious. Just bloody brilliant. And sure enough as I looked around my table, all ten elegant plates were completely empty! Scraped clean! Here’s my attempt at Salmon Rillettes made with leftover roasted salmon because who the hell has time to poach and chill fish these days?
If you’re still wondering what the hell rillettes (pronounced rhee-ettes) is, allow me to point you to this excellent definition. If you’re intent on getting to the recipe already, “rillettes” basically means spread of meat sealed with fat or pâté-like thing. It’s usually made with pork and fat, but cream and fish also work well. Traditionally you should seal your individual rillettes with clarified butter but this is a much quicker version meant to be served immediately. My rillettes will take you about five minutes as long as you have leftover salmon from last night. Also, you are going to need smoked salmon, just a smidgen, but it will make all the difference. I’m pretty sure you could also use high quality canned salmon instead of fresh, but I haven’t tested it.
Serves 4 as a snack
You will need:
1 large piece of cooked salmon – a sizable chunk about 4×4 inches (I recommend roasting in this manner)
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise (aint nothin like the real thing baby)
1 teaspoon fresh scallions (from about 1 stalk), very finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh white onion, finely chopped
1 very small piece (2 inches by 1 inch) smoked salmon, very finely chopped
lots of pepper to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1/4 of a baguette (about 6 inches of bread)
1 Tablespoon butter
1. If you don’t have a toaster oven, preheat your oven to 350. In a medium bowl, mash the salmon with a fork until very very fine.
2. Add the mayonnaise, scallions, onion, and smoked salmon to the bowl and mash together until completely blended. Add pepper (lots of it) to taste and stick in the freezer for 4 minutes to blast chill.
3. Slice the bread into tiny thin rounds and place on a baking sheet. Spread with butter and toast in your toaster oven for about 5 minutes or cook in your regular oven for about 8 until just slightly browned. Serve immediately with the very cold rillettes.