Friday, January 25, 2013

January Cooking Is Meh! December Cooking is Yay!

December Cooking - Coulibiac and Macarons

December cooking is (was) so much more fun than January cooking. For one thing, December is full of celebrations with lots of friends and family, while January is… Well, January is January, when we (try to) start new diets or we just don’t have as much on our plates (literally). I can’t quite let go of last year without sharing a few things I made on Christmas.

I had been thinking of making Salmon Coulibiac for ages. Think of it as a really upscale Fish Pie! It does have a lot of elements, but we weren’t having company, so dinner could be ready when it was ready. And I wouldn’t have to worry about a million other bits and pieces to serve with it.

But D(aughter) also decided that would be a good day to make macarons…with me by her side. I’m not sure if that last part was her idea or mine, but we did them together after I waded through hundreds (well, at least 30) recipes for macarons…while the coulibiac waited.

This was the macaron recipe we used. Scroll down the page until you get to Macaron Batter. I also heavily consulted Martha’s recipe. Her recipe says to use icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar). We used regular sugar, which I whirled in the food processor with the almonds after I had processed them. 

I also used the Italian Buttercream recipe on the same page. I split both the macaron batter and the buttercream in half and flavored those halves with a few teaspoons of strained raspberry purée. I left the other halves plain. 


My only regret is that we didn’t use a wet finger to flatten the plain meringues before they went in the oven. The raspberry ones deflated a little, which gave them a flatter and more classic shape.  

I loved both varieties, but I probably preferred the ones without raspberry. They also freeze beautifully, fully iced. Just thaw them on the serving plate for 10 or 15 minutes.

All that macaron activity delayed the start of my Coulibiac. That shouldn’t have been a problem, except that it was getting late and I was consulting several recipes. I hadn’t looked closely enough to realize that my two pound piece of salmon needed to be cooked for 10 minutes before I wrapped it in pastry.

I managed to precook it in good time, but then I actually slapped the rest of the recipe together in minutes. That was kind of ironic, considering I had been thinking about it for so long. Luckily, I had done the rice part in the morning. In the end, the only thing I would have done differently is to roll out the pastry more carefully and decorate it a bit more elaborately.

A few other things:
Traditionally, Coulibiac includes hard boiled eggs. I skipped that part, but it would have looked lovely when it was sliced.

Use any greens you want to layer under and over the salmon. I like broccoli rabe, but blanched spinach is good or arugula (left raw) would be okay too if you like it. 

As long as the rice and salmon are completely cool, you can assemble this in advance, cover it well with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until you're ready to put it in the oven. Make sure your oven is preheated.

Salmon Coulibiac
Printable recipe here.

Rice Filling:
2 tbls. butter
1 large onion, chopped
½ tsp. Kosher salt
10 - 12 oz package of whites mushrooms, sliced
2 cups brown rice
4 cups vegetable stock

1 2 lb. piece of salmon fillet
1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg beaten with 1 tbl. water

2 or 3 handfuls of cooked broccoli rabe (or blanched spinach is fine)

Early in the day, get the rice ready. Heat butter in large pot or Dutch oven. Add onion and salt. Bring to a sizzle, cover and turn down heat to medium low. Cook until onion is soft, at least 10 minutes. Raise heat and add mushrooms. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes.  Stir in rice and add vegetable stock. Bring to a rolling boil, stir well, cover and cook on low heat for 45 minutes. Do not open lid. Remove from heat and set aside for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. If you’re not using the rice within an hour, cool, cover and refrigerate it.

About a half hour before assembling Coulibiac, preheat oven to 350° F. Cover baking sheet with foil and Pam it. Place salmon on and bake for 10 minutes. Place salmon on dinner plate to cool.

Roll out one puff pastry sheet about 2 inches wider on each side than the piece of salmon. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush entire sheet with beaten egg. Spoon a thick layer of rice about the size of the salmon on the parchment paper. You should have plenty, but don’t use more than half. Place one handful of greens on top of the rice. 


Top with cooled salmon fillet. 

Place another handful of greens on top of the salmon and cover with another thick layer of rice. (You will probably have some left over.)

Roll out second sheet of puff pastry a little bigger than the first. Place it on top of Coulibiac. Press the edges of the pastry together to seal. Crimp the edges decoratively. 

(This is what I did in 10 seconds flat. I would take more time next time.) Brush entire surface with egg. Cut 3 little comma shaped vents on each of the 4 sides of the top of the Coulibiac. 

Bake at 425° F. for 20 to 25 minutes until pastry is golden brown. 

Let it sit for 5 minutes before slicing and serve with Hollandaise. I made mine in a blender. I like Julia’s recipe, but use your favorite.


Anonymous said...

It all looks lovely! Coulibiac would definitely hit the spot on cold evening.

I'm impressed with the way your macarons look. Macarons are tough to make well at home. In addition to aging the eggwhites (which I'd do in the fridge and not at room temperature) it helps to add egg white powder too. And drying out the almond flour before using it is another trick I've picked up. It's still a pain, though, and luckily we have a couple of bakeries in DC that make very good ones!

Sue said...

Hey Tom,
Yup, lots of recipes call for egg white powder, but I haven't had any handy for decades! The last time I used it was right after (and IN) cooking school.

I didn't mind the homemade texture and look of these macarons. But they are a pain and the bought ones do look perfect.