Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, Ouest chef-owner Tom Valenti discussed a seafood salad with Gotham Bar & Grill chef-owner Alfred Portale. What’s on your plate, Portale?
Who: Alfred Portale, chef-owner Gotham Bar and Grill
What: Rilletes aux Deux Salmons
Where: Bouchon Bistro, Yountville, CA
When: A month ago, while on vacation.
“Thomas Keller serves a rillette of fresh and smoked salmon in a crock with these little toasts, and with a couple of glasses of ice cold Champagne, it is spectacular. A little history on rillette: There are two basic styles. One comes from Tours, in the middle of France, and one comes from Le Mans, which is a little south. The difference is really texture. They’re both made with pork and cooked and seasoned in a similar way, but one is whipped into a very smooth consistency and the other is coarser and chunkier. The concept has been around a while, typically with pork, salmon, or duck. Thomas is using the idea with salmon. He makes a smooth purée of smoked salmon and butter, I would imagine, with lots of fresh herbs and lemon zest and things like that. Then he takes a good Atlantic, or King salmon, gently poaches it, and breaks the salmon up, chilled, into large shards. Then you gently fold the two together, season it, and get the appearance of a coarsely textured rillette. Classically, you seal the rillette with rendered pork fat and it will stay for a month. He packs it into one of those wide-mouth mason jars and I think he pours a thin layer of clarified butter on top so it really mimics a classic preparation and presentation. Then they make this excellent bread and he slices that and toasts it. You pop it open and spread the rillette onto the toast. It’s easy to make at home so it’s just a fun dish for entertaining. I was drinking Krug [with it] so I certainly would recommend that.
Keller Group casual dining director (and dish creator) Jeff Cerciello responds:
“There’s a repertoire of dishes that we have on our menu that we refer to as ‘potted foods.’ That’s also a section in the Bouchon Cookbook. These are foods that are meant to be shared at the table. Also, these are foods that are really iconic in bistros, whether it’s foie gras in a pot, pork rillettes or rabbit rillettes… This is sort of a modern adaptation to the dish where we’re using fresh and smoked salmon. Because the oyster bar is such an important part of our restaurant, [the dish was] just something to accompany that… What we’ve done is reduced the amount of butter; we add egg yolks for richness, shallot for sweetness, and crème fraiche. The crème fraiche with a little lemon in there gives it a nice acidity and a balance of flavors with the fat from the butter. You have two textures of salmon: This lightly steamed or poached or however you want to cook the fresh salmon, then a nice small dice of smoked… Looking at dishes we’ve done in the past, salmon was something people could identify with, and in this format it was really delicious.”
Check in next week to see which dish Jeff Cerciello enjoys.