About once a year, we invite a few friends over to try our brioche-wrapped wild king salmon dish, using a recipe by Rose Levy Beranbaum from her book Rose’s Melting Pot. While she is best known for her book, The Cake Bible, I think her Melting Pot is one of the best cookbooks around. No recipe better exemplifies this than “Russian Rivers Salmon Pie (coulibiac)”. It is not an easy dish to make- and is full of opportunities for disaster – and takes parts of three days to prepare at that. But it elegant and wonderfully flavorful, and visually is beautiful and unusual.
It might help to understand the narrative by going to the gallery link here.
The brioche is prepared two days before service, from bread flour, eggs, and butter. It goes through two rises, with refrigerator time in between, to keep the butter from separating, and firming the dough. It is kept chilled until ready to roll out on the third day.
The salmon is briefly poached in chicken broth and white wine, with sliced mushrooms on top. The poaching broth is poured off and used to make a veloute, along with egg yolks and lemon juice, a roux, and seasonings. After thickening, the veloute with the mushrooms added is placed over the salmon and put in the refrigerator to chill until set, up to a day.
Crepes are made from cornstarch, milk, eggs, and minced dill and parsley. These, too, can be made a day ahead and chilled.
Next, couscous is prepared, adding chopped hard-boiled eggs, and minced dill and parsley.
The day of service, the brioche is rolled out and lined with dill crepes to keep the brioche from getting wet from the salmon mixture. Layers of couscous and salmon-veloute are alternated, followed by a final dill crepe covering, and the brioche is pulled together, trimmed and sealed, decorated with pastry cut-shapes and brushed with an egg glaze.
After resting (the coulibiac, not the chef) it is baked for an hour.
The coulibiac is removed from the oven, cooled, sliced, and served with clarified butter. Now do you see why we only make it once a year?