One day, while feeling adventurous, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at making this hallmark of Classical French Gastronomy. It seemed a daunting task, but I felt that my skills were up for it. I would not be able to recreate the recipe exactly, as one of the key ingredients "vesiga", was not available. Vesiga is the dried spinal cord of a sturgeon! I'm not even sure such a thing is available these days? The rest of the recipe seemed pretty straight forward. I would just find a fishy substitution for the vesiga. Here is my recipe for this classic dish. It is a lot of work, but the results are absolutely delicious. It is the perfect "WOW" dish to serve for a group of your very closest friends.
Coulibiac de Saumon
- 1 pound wild salmon fillet, skin and bones removed. I prefer sockeye salmon. Also avoid the tail piece as you do not want the fillet to taper off.
- 14 ounces all-butter puff pastry. Frozen works well for this, or make your own!
- 2 tablespoons flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces button mushrooms, chopped finely
- 1 ounce dried chanterelle mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup hot water for 20 minutes. Remove from water, squeeze out excess liquid, chop finely. Reserve soaking liquid.
- 1 large leek, sliced thinly
- 5 ounces fresh baby spinach
- 1/2 teaspoon dried french thyme
- 1/2 cup flat-leafed parsley, chopped
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
- 1 tin of water-packed sardines, roughly mashed
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 whole egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- salt and pepper
- olive oil for sauteing
Salmon: Place large saute pan over high heat. Cut salmon fillet in half lengthwise, season with salt and pepper. Cover bottom of pan with olive oil. Sear salmon on top side only until brown and crispy. Remove from pan and cool completely. Place aside.
Rice: Place rice in a pot with 1 1/2 cups liquid and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup heavy cream. Let cool completely. Place aside.
Mushroom Duxelles: Place large saute pan over high heat. Add olive oil to cover bottom. Add chopped button mushrooms, chopped chanterelle mushrooms, and sliced leeks. Saute until very well cooked and somewhat dry, about 20 minutes. Add dried thyme, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Cook another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the baby spinach. Mix together and allow the heat from the mushrooms to wilt the spinach. Set aside and cool completely.
Mushroom Sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and cook together for about five minutes, stirring constantly. To this roux, add the reserved mushroom soaking liquid. Stir, bring to a boil, and season with salt and pepper. The sauce will be very thick. Cook for about five minutes. After five minutes, remove from the heat and add the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Whisk thoroughly. Return to a gentle heat and cook an additional five minutes, whisking constantly. Set aside and cool completely.
Puff Pastry: Flour a work surface and roll out puff pastry to a 10 x 16 inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle into two pieces at the 7 inch mark along the 16 inch run. In other words, you should have two pieces of pastry, one measuring 7 x 10 inches, and the other measuring 9 x 10 inches. Keep chilled until ready for use.
Place the smaller piece of puff pastry on a piece of parchment paper the size of a baking sheet. Begin building layers in the center of the pastry starting with the rice. Make a layer of rice, leaving at least a 1 inch margin all the way around. Next, make a layer of mushroom sauce. Next, a layer of hard-boiled egg. Next, a layer of sardine. Next, a layer of mushroom duxelles. Place the salmon fillets on top of the mushroom, placing salmon the long way end to end. Now repeat your layers in reverse, being sure that you end with rice.
Make an egg wash with the whole egg and water. Egg wash the pastry around the 1 inch margin. Place the larger piece of pastry over the top, being very careful not to tear it. Gently pat it snugly all the way around being careful not to trap any air inside. Seal top pastry to bottom pastry. Then, carefully trim off any excess pastry leaving only about 1 inch all the way around. Carefully fold the excess pastry under the coulibiac. The final result should be somewhat football shaped, see picture above. Using a small round cutter, cut out a vent hole in the top.
Cover the entire coulibiac with egg wash and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. At this point, it can be held for up to 2 days.
While coulibiac is chilling, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake coulibiac on a baking sheet in the middle of the oven for about 35 to 40 minutes. You just want the pastry to turn a rich golden brown. Remove from the oven and let rest 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Use a serated knife in a sawing motion to slice. Serve immediately.