Serves a Crowd

Salmon Coulibiac With Dilly Sour Cream

March  4, 2022
6 Ratings
Photo by Melina Hammer
  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 55 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

What’s better than mustardy salmon, shallot-flecked rice, and roasted kale? All of that wrapped in a puff-pastry parcel, baked until golden, and finished with a slick of dilly sour cream. At first glance, this bonafide food project might look intimidating, but really, it’s just layers of easy-to-prepare foods, all which can be made in advance. Coulibiac is a special-occasion dish, like the fish version of beef Wellington. Iconic cookbook author James Beard called it “the most unusual dish" he ever encountered, and New York Times restaurant critic Craig Claiborne said, “It is a celestial creation…what is to my mind the world’s greatest dish.” It’s true you’ll benefit from patience and enthusiasm when you tackle this recipe, but just use the size and shape of your salmon as a guide, and you’ll do great. I seek out Dufour puff pastry here because it’s uniquely, and wonderfully, all-butter; swapping in another kind would change the flavor and dimensions (Dufour’s are 15 by 9½ inches). Whole-grain mustard and lemon zest add a special verve. For the latter, use a peeler to make strips and remove any bitter white pith, then thinly slice the strips crosswise. If your fishmonger removes the salmon skin for you, ask them to package it with the fish so you can fry it up in a pan while the coulibiac bakes—cook’s treat. —Melina Hammer

What You'll Need
  • Salmon Coulibiac
  • 1 (about 8x3½-inch) salmon fillet (about 1¾ pounds), skin removed
  • Kosher salt, for seasoning
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 (14-ounce) package Dufour puff pastry
  • 4 large leaves lacinato kale, stems removed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for sautéing
  • 3 large shallots, peeled and sliced into rings
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked long-grain rice
  • 1 tablespoon finely sliced lemon peel
  • 3 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
  • 1 large egg
  • Dilly Sour Cream
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped dill
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Thoroughly pat dry the salmon, then season it all over with salt.
  2. On lightly floured parchment, gently roll the puff pastry until the short side (which starts out at 9½ inches) is about 11 inches long, smoothing out any fold lines in the process. Lay the smoother, prettier side to face down. Cover the pastry with plastic wrap and transfer it to a sheet pan. Let chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Blanch the kale in a small pot of boiling water, just long enough to wilt the leaves and turn them bright green, about 30 seconds. Transfer the kale to an ice bath, let soak until cool to the touch, then transfer to a towel and blot dry with another towel.
  4. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet set over medium heat. Sauté the shallots until they are collapsed, golden, and translucent, adding a pinch of salt as they cook, and stirring occasionally, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer the shallots to a small dish and set aside to cool.
  5. Remove the puff pastry from the refrigerator and keep it right on the baking sheet as you assemble: Arrange the kale pieces, cutting them as needed, to create a surface area the same size as the fish. Spoon half the rice on top of the kale, patting it flat into a rectangle, about 8 by 3½ inches. Arrange half of the shallots onto the rice, then sprinkle with half of the lemon strips. Dollop half of the mustard and gently spread over the ingredients, then lay the salmon on top.
  6. Repeat arranging the remainder of each element, now in reverse: the remaining mustard, spread evenly across the salmon, followed by the lemon strips, then the shallots, then the rice. Season with freshly ground pepper, then arrange remaining kale leaves, cutting them to trim as needed.
  7. Fold the four sides inward, like wrapping a gift, to create a parcel. If there is more than 1 inch of overlap, trim the pastry. Seal the seams with wet fingertips.
  8. Use the parchment at one end to lift the parcel and roll it over, so the seam side faces down. Cover again with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes to chill the pastry. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400°F.
  9. After the pastry has chilled, use a round teaspoon or small spoon to score a fish scale pattern in the pastry: Press it into the pastry, imprinting well-defined marks, then repeat to create overlapping rows of scales.
  10. Whisk the egg with a fork in a small bowl. Paint beaten egg across the entire surface, down to the parcel base and in between the seams at each end. Chill again for 10 minutes.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is a solid surface and lightly golden. Retrace ½ of the scales using a small paring knife, lightly piercing the pastry as you score. Return to the oven and bake until deeply golden all over, rotating the pan for even baking as needed, 20 to 25 more minutes.
  12. As the coulibiac bakes, make the dilly sour cream: In a small bowl, stir together all of the ingredients, then adjust to taste.
  13. Let the coulibiac cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Serve slices dolloped with the sauce.

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Melina is the author of 'A Year at Catbird Cottage' with Ten Speed Press. She grows an heirloom and pollinator garden and forages wild foods at her namesake Hudson Valley getaway, Catbird Cottage. Melina loves serving curated menus for guests from near and far seeking community amidst the hummingbirds, grosbeaks, finches, and the robust flavors of the seasons.

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