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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

A French treat for Christmas

Make this pate-like dish part of your Christmas spread.
The Straits Times - December 18, 2013
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A French treat for Christmas

My family is in a frenzy of Christmas preparations: The tree has been ordered, as have the fruitcakes, laden with nut and fruit (from the church bakery, excellent, by the way).

And I am now thinking of making canapes for the season.

But in view of the fact that food associated with the season is usually rich, can these be healthy?

I want to make salmon rillettes, inspired by the rillettes served at Le Bistrot du Sommelier in Armenian Street and also at the new Cafe Gavroche in Tras Street, both traditional French establishments.

Rillettes are usually made with duck or pork, poached in fat till the meat is tender enough to be shredded, and then packed into tubs topped with more fat, usually a layer of clarified butter.

Like in the similar but smoother French meat pate, the fat, butter and cream add to the flavour of the shredded meat, which is then spread on slices of bread or toast.

Rillettes are generally eaten as snacks, or served as appetisers before meals.

They are very nice and I love them as an occasional treat, but how do I make them less indulgent?

Of course, I could make them with just fish but in the traditional recipe, even fish rillettes have duck fat added and are enriched with cream and mayonnaise.

I guess I could poach the fish in a poaching liquid rather than fat.

The advantage here is that you can add all kinds of seasoning to the pot, including aromatic white wine.

Low-fat yogurt rather than creme fraiche could be used to enrich it, while chopped onion and gherkins would add crunch and sweetness to the paste.

It is truly useful to have salmon rillettes on hand during this Yuletide season.

Apart from tasting delicious, they also make for healthy canapes to pass round, or to take to parties that inevitably come with the season.

I tweaked a recipe that I found and it actually worked. More importantly, it satisfied me as much as the other fish rillettes served in restaurants.

In fact, because salmon is a rich fish, it was a relief not to have all that extra richness from fat in the tub.

Those watching their diets can have dollops of the pink paste on cucumber slices rather than bread.

But for me, crusty bread is one indulgence that I hope I would never have to give up, especially when the spread has now been rendered deliciously innocuous.

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