The calendar says it’s spring. Outside, not quite, but I remain optimistic. Actually, it’s a little better than that. Howard planted peas in the vegetable garden last night, and this morning, I noticed the tarragon and chives have started to emerged from the ground.
Waiting for warmer weather means that I no longer crave the hearty comfort food of winter. There still aren’t any local vegetables available, but lighter meals are what appeal. This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie gets a big check mark on that count. The challenge this week is Salmon Tartare, a savory parfait, where the presentation is almost as satisfying as the taste.
To start, three complementary “salads” are prepared. The first is sliced grape tomatoes tossed with oil and herbs. The second is diced raw salmon tossed with olive oil, more herbs, lime zest, scallion, and Tabasco. Finally, diced avocado is tossed with lime juice and zest, herbs and Tabasco. The final touch is the addition of supremed lime segments to the salmon mixture along with some more lime juice. (And, if you don’t mind supreming that citrus, try my mother’s famous Fruit Salad!)
The herbs called for were mint and chives, but because of the tomatoes and avocado, this dish screamed “Cilantro!” to me, so that’s what I used.
To serve, the layers can be formed in a ring that gets removed or a ramekin that gets flipped over. I chose to serve this in extra-large martini glasses. When I bought them, I didn’t realize that these festive glasses are larger than any cocktail that I can drink responsibly, so I was glad to have an opportunity to pull them out of the cabinet.
I served the salmon tartare for dinner. We both really enjoyed it. I made half the recipe, and the portions seemed generous for a meal, at least for us. In smaller glasses, this would make a fun appetizer alongside cocktails also served in smaller glasses than these.
Over the past year or so, I’ve grown to love rillettes as a pre-dinner appetizer or part of a picnic lunch. What are rillettes? It’s the French word for a pâté-like paste traditionally made from pork. I tried my hand at pork rillettes over the winter. In Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table, she offers three different versions of rillettes made with fish. Previously, we’ve made rillettes with sardines and tuna. This week, salmon was on deck.
Salmon rillettes is the most colorful of the trio. It’s yet another recipe I’d describe with the word “confetti”. The pale coral of fresh salmon provides the base for flecks of deep coral from smoked salmon, red from a chile pepper, light purple from shallot, a sprinkling of yellow from lemon zest, and a flash of fuchsia from pink peppercorns. The preparation was simple. Small chunks of salmon are barely poached in diluted wine with some lemon peel, a sliver of the chile pepper, and some coriander seed and white peppercorns thrown in the pot. The salmon is then mashed with the other ingredients along with softened butter and lemon juice before packing it into a ramekin to firm up for spreading.
This spread is quite versatile. I enjoyed salmon rillettes spread on crackers for a light lunch. Tonight, we’ll enjoy it again as an appetizer. If there’s anything leftover, it will be part of the picnic lunch I’ve planned for tomorrow.
I did find that the smoked salmon overpowered the poached salmon both in flavor and texture. Next time I make this, I would adjust the proportions by doubling the fresh salmon and halving the smoked so the fresh fish could shine.
To see what the other Doristas thought of salmon rillettes, you can check out their links here. The recipe is, of course, in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table, or you can find it on-line here.