Coulibiac is the French name for the Russian dish Kulebiaka. Traditionally, it consists of fish (usually salmon), baked in a brioche crust with rice, egg, and mushrooms, seasoned with lemon and dill. It’s one of those seriously old-school recipes that would be right at home on a table laid by Carême. Or it would be if you made it with an entire fish, and then shaped the brioche crust to look like a fish complete with glistening egg-washed scales and maybe an olive for the eye.
By comparison, my recipe is simple, though it looks like a monster undertaking. (Writing it all down was no walk in the park, I’ll tell you that.) But if you’re organized, you really can do all the prep while you’re waiting for the brioche to rise. I made a few changes to the traditional dish, swapping out the rice in favor of quinoa and adding a hint of ginger. I replaced the dill with fresh chives, because I thought they would be a better complement to the ginger. I also omitted the egg, as it seemed extraneous. And I threw some whole wheat flour into the brioche dough to increase the whole-grain factor.
After setting the brioche dough aside to rest, I started with the mushrooms. Sautéed in butter and seasoned with salt, pepper, and fresh ginger, then finished with white wine and fresh chives, I could have eaten these on their own. But they were destined for bigger things, so I set them aside to keep the brioche company. While they were cooking, I simmered the quinoa in water seasoned with salt and ginger. I undercooked it slightly in hopes that it would come out of the final dish perfectly cooked. Lemon zest and more chives brightened up the flavor and then that, too, had to wait.
But not for long. I mentioned that Coulibiac is traditionally made with salmon, but since Atlantic salmon is so terribly un-PCat the moment, I thought I’d go with some environmentally friendly French trout. I (or to be more accurate, Nick) seared it over high heat while I rolled out the brioche and spread it with the quinoa. When the fish was medium-rare, we placed it on top of the quinoa and covered it with the mushrooms.
I topped it all off with another layer of brioche dough, and with a nod to the grand tables of yesteryear, attempted to cut some vents in a vague fish design.
A little egg wash, a sprinkle of sea salt, and into the oven it went. Twenty five minutes later, it looked like this:
And when I cut into it, it looked like the picture at the very top of this post. It turned out really well – better than I expected, even. The nutty earthiness of the quinoa matched well with the rich umami flavor of the mushrooms. There was just enough ginger and lemon to brighten the dish, the whole wheat brioche was soft and yielding, and the fish swam happily in the middle. The wine I chose, a Pouilly-Fuissé procured at the Salon Gastronomique, went smashingly with all of it.
The question is: which dish should I enter into the Foodie Joust this month? Coulibiac or Granola?
Here’s the recipe – it looks long, but it’s pretty manageable once you get into it.
Coulebiac with Quinoa and Ginger
For the Brioche:
240 g/ 8½ oz brioche flour or bread flour
60 g/ 2 oz whole wheat flour
1½ packets instant yeast
1 tsp. fine sea salt
4 tsp. sugar
200 ml/ 6¾ fl oz milk, warmed for 20-30 seconds in the microwave
40 g/ 1½ oz butter, softened
- Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the butter and milk until the dough forms a ball of sorts. When the spoon ceases to be effective, extract it and pick up the dough with your hands. You might want to flour them first. Knead for 6-8 minutes. The dough will become smooth and supple, but the rough edges of the whole wheat flour will keep it from becoming completely refined.
- Set the dough back in the bowl and cover it with a clean dishtowel. Let it rest at room temperature for about an hour. This should give you all the time you need to prepare the rest of the coulebiac fillings.
For the Mushrooms:
250 g/ 8¾ oz (or so) cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 30 mm/ 1/8” thick.
1 Tbsp. butter
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2½ cm/ 1” piece of ginger, peeled and minced
25 ml/ 1 oz white wine
½ bunch fresh chives
- Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a skillet large enough to fit all the mushrooms comfortably. When the foaming subsides, add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper, make sure the mushrooms are evenly distributed and leave them alone for a few minutes. Give them a quick toss (or give them a stir, if you must be civilized) and check for browning. Add the ginger and toss to combine. Continue cooking the mushrooms, stirring every so often, until they are nicely browned, maybe 15-20 minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate any accumulated fond. When the liquid has evaporated, remove the pan from the heat and snip the chives over the mushrooms. Stir again and transfer to a bowl.
For the Quinoa:
80 ml/ 1/3 cup quinoa
160 ml / 2/3 cup water
A good pinch of coarse sea salt
2½ cm/ 1” piece of ginger, peeled and minced
Zest of 1 lemon (don’t worry, you’ll use the juice later)
- Bring water, salt, and ginger to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the quinoa and reduce heat. Simmer about 10 minutes, until the quinoa is almost fully cooked – it will finish cooking in the oven later.
- Stir in the lemon zest and chives. Cover and let rest until you’re ready to assemble the coulebiac.
For the Fish:
400 g/ 14 oz trout fillet – the big kind that looks like salmon (or just use salmon), skinned
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat a nonstick pan over high heat. Add the oil and butter. When the foaming subsides, place the fish in the pan. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Cook a few minutes per side. You want the fish to be nicely browned on the outside, but still rare in the center.
1 lemon, halved
1 egg, beaten
(Plus all that other stuff you just made)
- Preheat the oven to 185 C/ 365 F.
- Divide the dough in half. On a floured surface, roll each half out into an oval a little larger than the size of the fish. Transfer the larger of the two pieces (there’s bound to be one that’s slightly larger) to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- Spread the quinoa on the brioche dough, leaving a two-finger margin of dough uncovered. Sprinkle with the juice of one lemon half. Place the fish on top. Cover the fish with the mushrooms and juice the other lemon half over them.
- Brush the beaten egg around the edge of the brioche dough. Place the other brioche oval on top of the filling and press the edges of the dough together. Fold the bottom edge up over the top, making it look as fancy (or not) as you like. Cut a few vents into the top layer of brioche and brush the entire thing with the egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
- Bake about 25 minutes, rotating the pan once during that time. When the brioche is a lovely golden-brown, it’s ready.
- Let cool a few minutes, then cut gently with a serrated knife – you worked so hard on all those layers, you don’t want them getting all mashed together at the last minute – and serve.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.