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Cowabunga, let’s eat salmon rilletes

Valentines Day was more fun when I was a kid. Decorated envelopes were created and hung from the front of your desk for Valentines to be dropped in like your own personal mailbox. If you were one of the cool kids, you had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Valentines that said, “Cowabunga! I like you as much as pizza!” Or a Michael Jordan Valentines wishing you a slam dunk of a day. You chose the best conversation hearts for each person, and an especially “romantic” one for your crush. The day was filled with puppy love and sugar rushes, and it was all such an easier time.

These days I’m conflicted about Valentines Day. Not because I have spent many years, sans an adoring Valentine to swoon with flowers and chocolate, but because I’ve always felt like Valentines Day is a cop-out day where otherwise non-affectionate husbands or boyfriends can seem like Romeo because he remembered to buy you roses and a box of chocolates; or wives and girlfriends turn vixens for one night with a slinky lingerie purchase. Which brings me to my next point, the over-commercialism of the holiday, where we must spend, spend, spend to truly be in love.

And then there is that damn prix fixe menu. Like Bon Appetite’s food blogger, The Nitpicker, I too am sick of Valentine’s Day Prix Fixe menus – those uninspired and overpriced menus that you can’t avoid on this day. The words prix fixe send shivers up my spine. Having spent many years in the restaurant industry, I know all-to-well about how easy a prix fixe menu is to organize. Restaurants should be ashamed of themselves for putting together such lackluster menus with a hefty price tag because they can. I get it; the consumer is willing to pay it, so why not, right? But still, SHAME.

Prix fixe dinner nights are (mostly) a breeze for the kitchen staff; they cruise through the night like the guy who sounds the horn for goals in a hockey game, pushing buttons at all the right times, all-the-while, sitting back and enjoying the game. Sure the restaurant put “fancy” items on the menu to allure, like crab and lobster and truffles, but really, you could get a better meal and pay less any other night of the week. And yet, the consumer is willing to pull out their Visa for the whole shebang, with the added wine pairing at an outrageous $45 a piece.

Amber and I spent our first Valentines waiting for a UPS driver to deliver a couch to the apartment she just moved into. I don’t really remember what we ate or drank that night, to be honest, but I remember watching movies all day, curled up in a blanket on the living room floor. Our 2nd was spent at home as well; I was financially not well-equipped to go out to eat, so we made “fancy” chicken and waffles and drank champagne. This year, everywhere I looked I saw spruced-up V-Day menus. I tried to find a restaurant that was not conforming to the prix fixe ways and was unsuccessful. And all-the-better. Instead I’m crafting a “fancy” V-day menu of our own. On the menu: Salmon rillettes, chicory salad with roasted delicata, apple and goat cheese, New York strip steak with red wine sauce and roasted root vegetables, cheese plate and dessert TBD. Wine also TBD.

Sounds pretty good, right? Would you spend $85 on this menu at your over-packed restaurant down the road? Well you don’t have to if you want to make it a special V-day dinner at home. Total cost: around $50. I would stuff my envelope full of Valentines for my efforts.

I made rillettes the night before so when we both came home after a long days work, Amber and I would have a delicious appetizer waiting for us while we made the quick (and easy) preparations for the rest of the meal. So for all the lovers out there, put this recipe in your back pocket, because it is sure to make your significant other swoon with delight any day of the week. And here’s hoping you get a Valentine with Alf holding a box of chocolates.
Salmon Rillettes

  • 1/2 leek, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 6 ounces fresh salmon
  • 3 ounces smoked salmon, chopped
  • 2 ounces crème fraîche (or sour cream or mayo)
  • 1 TBSP minced shallot
  • 2 TSP capers
  • 2 TBSP minced chives
  • 1 TBSP chopped dill
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sliced, toasted baguette for serving

In a shallow pot, add the leek, peppercorns, bay leaf, wine, water and lemon and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes to allow flavors to develop.

Then add the salmon and gently poach for 10 minutes or until opaque in the center.

Remove the salmon and allow to cool. Remove skin if there was any.

In a bowl, flake salmon and then mix with chopped smoked salmon, crème fraîche, chives, dill, capers, shallot, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Chill spread until ready to serve. Can be made over-night. Serve with toasted baguette rounds.

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