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Coulibiac from French by Damien Pignolet

So first one and why not something challenging, thanks Carrie!!!

A real challenge that need to think about is lots of pictures and descriptions but will be unable to post the recipes as would likely make some of the authors unhappy!

This is one of my favourite cook books and have eaten at Bistro Moncur in Sydney many times where some of these recipes have featured. Including the fantastic Crab Omelette (hopefully that will get picked in the future).

So the recipe for Coulibiac is a pretty good start, its a dish I first tasted many years ago when I was working in one of my short stints in a kitchen in Sydney. The version that Damien has in his book is by no means the shortcut version Make the brioche and rest, make crepes, prepare the rice and fish. One thing I do like about his recipe is using a bread tin to bake it in to hold the brioche together in a nice loaf and not spread across the baking tray.

The history of Coulibiac appear to go back to the humble Russian fish or meat pie made with bread dough, crushed wheat, dill and onions known as koulibiaca. It was the 19th century French chefs hired by the Russian nobility that created from that what is today Coulibiac. The original called for Sturgeon but we will make do with the humble Salmon.

Time to go and shop for ingredients

So got everything together and started to run through the recipe. First make the brioche dough, while the quantities look fine the methodology seems a bit different to traditional, lets see how it works out.

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Next the crepes while the brioche dough proves. Was really thinking about the purpose of the crepes, don’t add any flavour and is pretty much dough on dough. Bit of reading later it all makes sense. Crepes are there to absorb the moisture from the cooking ingredients inside and not unset the brioche getting all lovely and crisp. So far so good.A few hours later and brioche dough not behaving, time for another batch and a gin and tonic. That usually solves all issues.

Finally dough proved and made the other ingredients. Its a pretty simple collection of flavours. Salmon trimmed into two nice slabs. Cooked rice, boiled eggs sliced and a fine dice of onions and mushrooms that a sauteed off till soft (kind of like a duxelle but not made into a paste).

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Now the difficult part, the assembly and wrapping. The recipe suggested laying out a tea towel lengthwise and using a sheet of baking paper to roll the dough on the help with rolling up. I just had the pastry mat and put some baking paper on top. As you can see I am an excellent pastry roller outer with a nice even rectangle……..

To assemble the ingredients its a thin layer of rice, some dill, topped with a slab of salmon, some mushroom mix, more dill, sliced eggs, then more mushroom, dill, salmon slab and finally rice topped with remaining dill. Perfect…. ohh shit forgot the crepes…… never mind just place them around and hope for the best!!

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It kind of ends up like some bastardized sushi roll using brioche instead of the seaweed. So now the hard part and sorry no photos of the process as it was quite interactive. Firstly pickup the edge of the brioche closest and try to tightly wrap it over the mix and trim any excess. Then grab the top end and do the same so is nicely covered with some overlap. then fold in the stretch pastry over the ends. Now while that is all looking good use the baking paper and mat to help roll the whole package over so the pastry join is on the bottom and nicely sealed.

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The end result was pretty good, I didn’t go with using the bread tin to bake it in as by the time I assembled it all was too big for the tin. Should probably measure in advance!! Brush with some egg wash and then into the oven for 20 minutes at 200C (390F) and then turn down to 160C (320F) for another 10 minutes.

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At this stage the pastry looks pretty nicely cooked but a test with a temp probe and didn’t things were as cooked as should be inside so threw it in for another 10 min just to make sure.IMG_0178

After resting serve on a nice platter……..fish in a blanket anyone 🙂

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So finally the moment of cutting. the pastry held in the moisture lovely and salmon was probably a little overcooked (maybe didn’t need that additional 10 min) wasn’t dry but not nice and medium. The pastry came out great. I can see the benefit is making sure the stack of ingredients are held together tightly as you can see a bit of stack overflow in wrapping and also how the bread tin helps it come together in a nice loaf. Not quite the picture from the book but pretty good anyway.

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And the end result, a nice slice with a salad of beet leaves and vinaigrette… the commentary from the judge was HMMmmm……hmmmmm……HHHHMMMM…..hhhhhMMMM. Think am going to need a translator.

2 thoughts on “Coulibiac from French by Damien Pignolet

  1. That’s not so easy to start with!

    Looking forward to seeing this unfold. Having a look at your books, I’ve got around 15 in my collection as well, so if Carrie gets tired of picking one, I can always make a suggestion!

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