Quick, give yourself a pop quiz and see if you can remember how to make duxelles. I’ll give you a minute to think of the answer.
The reason I was thinking about duxelles the other day was because of a dish that my buddy Tom wrote about – a complicated, many-stepped, beauty of a lamb dish. His was duxelles-free, but it reminded me of a long-winded dish with many (homemade) components that I used to make. The only problem was…that for the life of me…I couldn’t remember WHAT the dish was. I knew it had duxelles and I vaguely remembered that it was made from salmon.
So here’s question number two. WHAT in the world was I thinking of? It’s an elaborate salmon dish with duxelles and maybe some pastry around it? Any ideas? I also have a distant memory of rice and maybe crepes too(???)
Finally, FINALLY, I remembered what it was. The dish I was thinking of was…Coulibiac. I don’t want to tell you how many decades it’s been since I last made one, but let’s put it this way – Bonanzamay not have been on anymore, but Mork and Mindy was!
Just like Tom’s Lamb , Coulibiac is prepared in lots of different steps. The pastry – often a brioche dough – can be made in advance and even frozen. The duxelles can be prepared ahead too.
Oh! Back to the duxelles. So do you remember how to make them?
This is the classic way: Mince mushrooms, really MINCE them. (The food processor is the best way.) Squeeze them out in a dishtowel or cheesecloth to remove as much moisture as possible. Then sauté them in butter over high heat with minced shallots or onions. (Sometimes cream is stirred in.) Season with salt and pepper. The mixture should be dry and paste-like.
Suddenly, in my brain that was swimming with Coulibiac memories, I thought of another way to make duxelles, as well as an alternative to Coulibiac that wouldn’t require a 3 day break from all other activities.
I decided to rebel against everything I’d ever learned about mushrooms and duxelles. (Well, almost everything. I still used a high heat.)
I cooked the onions first, which is totally wrong for duxelles. I cooked them slow and low, because I wanted them soft and sweet…with no hint of bitterness.
Then I took the onions out of the pan AND (this part should be illegal), added the mushrooms in SLICES rather than FINELY chopped, but I had my reasons. I wanted them to pick up the caramelization from the bottom of the pan. The bigger the surface area of the mushrooms, the more crustily-browned they would get.
After I got the color I was after, I cooked them together with the softened onions for a bit to drive off the excess moisture. (THAT part, at least, follows normal procedure.) THEN the mixture went into the food processor. They didn’t have the usual soft and pasty texture. They were chewier with a heartier flavor than normal.
Then I went on to make a Coulibiac-style dish with many of the same elements as the original, except the slaving-in-the-kitchen part. Consider it a deconstructed version. This recipe looks long, but really it’s just a combination of several simple elements. The zucchini sauce is a variation on a fabulous recipe from Rozanne Gold’s Recipes 1-2-3.
Printable recipe here
3 tbls. unsalted butter, divided
10 oz. mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper
¼ cup parsley, loosely packed, if desired
2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced into ½ pieces
1/3 cup water
½ tsp. Kosher salt
2 tbls. butter
4 6 oz. salmon fillets
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
For serving: cooked brown rice
For duxelles: Cook onion in 1 tablespoon of butter in heavy-bottomed frying pan. Use medium heat until you hear a sizzle. Add a big pinch of salt, stir well, cover, and cook on low heat for at least 10 minutes. Stir well. Continue cooking, covered, until onions are completely soft.
Remove onions from pan and set aside. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to saucepan. Stir in mushrooms and cook on medium high until browned on one side. Turn over (as well as you can) and cook the other side of the mushrooms. Don’t stir a lot so the mushrooms can get really browned.
Add the onions to the mushrooms and cook over medium heat until the mixture is fairly dry. Taste for seasoning. Purée in food processor with parsley, if using. Return to frying pan and set aside.
Cut 4 equal shapes from puff pastry – squares, circles or even rectangles. 20 minutes before serving, bake puff pastry on a baking sheet at 400°F for 15 minutes.
For zucchini sauce: Place zucchini, water and salt in small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir well, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Zucchini will look woefully overcooked, but don’t worry. The bright green color will come back.) Pour cooked zucchini mixture into blender. Blend until smooth. (See how green it is!) Add butter and blend until smooth. The butter should be completely incorporated. Return to saucepan until ready to reheat.
Cook salmon in a baking dish at 400° F for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cover loosely with foil.