Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Apr 27, 2006 08:12 PM

Koulibiaca...Russian Fish Pie

  • f

I rarely get a chance to watch TV, but saw Emeril layering rice, salmon, and mushrooms into puffed pastry--looked delicious! Has anyone made this before?

On order is "Please to the Table", perhaps there will be a recipe in there...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Yes. To give you an idea of the scope of this cookbook, she devotes 24 pages to Kulebiaka (layered savory pie) and its varients, kapustnaya nachinka, and myasnaya nachinka. I'll read them tonight and get back to you. You could google those terms with the word recipes attached and see what comes up.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Niki Rothman

      The Russian-Alaskan version is variously called salmon piroghi, peroche pie, or salmon pirok (from Cooking Alaskan)(all variations on the Russian word for pie). These typically use conventional pie crusts, with layers of cooked rice, cabbage, cooked salmon, and boild eggs. They are particularly associated with Christmas celebrations.


      1. re: paulj

        My mother, a fantastic cook and a fan of ANYTHING baked in a buttery pastry crust, made coulibiac for parties in the 60's and 70's. She loved dishes that took days to prepare, and let me tell you, this one takes forever, step after step after step. The whole family tip-toed around silently and ate hot dogs in the corner while she (in a hypnotic state), gathered ingredients, prepared crust, rice, crepes,chopped dill, mushrooms and poached fish!!!! The best part was after layering everything together, she shaped it all into a huge fish with pastry fins and scales baked it to golden ,crusty perfection. She'd cut a small vent and pour in melted butter to coat everthing inside. Then she decorated with flowers made of aspic and served it on a bed of watercress and fresh flowers. My dad says that he was always shocked when we cut into this gorgeous sculpture and ate it up after all of this exquisite preperation.

        1. re: Miss Claudy

          Your mom's excruciating ordeal illustrates what's genius about Anya Von Bremzen's "Please to the Table"
          Check out the recipe I posted above. I did leave out about cutting the dough into an oval and using the trim to decorate. But really, she makes your mom's ordeal into something anybody could do whenever they felt like it. A couple of people here said they'd want to serve it with a cream sauce of some kind. I concur - that would pull it together. But how to flavor the sauce so as to add something more but not compete with the dill? Carb Lover's photo is mouth watering!

          1. re: Miss Claudy

            Lawdy, Miss Claudy! What a delicious description.

      2. The Balthazar cookbook has a recipe for koulibiac. I have drooled over the photo countless times, but haven't made the recipe yet (maybe when I can get some local wild salmon during the summer). I have loaned out my book, so can't paraphrase for you. Please report back if you try making this dish; I'd be very interested to hear how it went!

        1. -Kulebiaka-
          Here's a synopsis:
          1c fish stock
          1 c w. wine
          2 # turbot filet - 1 1/2" cubes
          3 T veg oil
          10 oz. thin sliced crimini/porto. mush
          1 1/2 c cooked rice
          1/2 c fresh dill
          2 sheets puff past.
          3 T dry bread crumbs
          4 HB eggs - chop
          6 T unsalted but. - melt
          1/3c lemon juice
          1 lg. beaten egg w/ 1tsp milk

          Preheat 375. Butter cookie sheet
          Poach fish in stock & wine 5 min. Remove, cool, reserve liquid.
          Fry onions & mush in oil until liquid reabsorbed
          Combine rice & dill in bowl
          Roll out dough sheets to 14x9 (refrig. each till ready to roll)
          Sprinkle crumbs on bottom sheet of dough.
          Leave 1 1/2" border.
          This is the order: mush, rice,eggs, fish just in the middle - repeat all. Season each layer w/s&p, top w/lemon j. & butter.
          Top w/ dough - seal edges.
          Brush w/ egg, cut vents.
          Bake 45 minutes.
          Serve warm.

          10 Replies
          1. re: Niki Rothman

            The reserved fish broth is not used in this recipe.
            She does give a menu for this meal which includes fish soup, smoked fish appetizer, berry custard.
            Recipes included.
            Suggests drinking lemon vodka and pouilly fume'

            1. re: Niki Rothman

              You are quite knowledgeable about Russian food. My Dad's parents came from Russia, yet I know nothing about the cuisine. (My parents did not cook.)

              **I am not used to salmon being paired with hard-boiled eggs. My "spousal unit" does not like hard-boiled eggs, would it be anathema to exclude them?

              1. re: Funwithfood

                You can leave out the eggs, with no harm done. I should warn you (after having it in a couple of restaurants and making it twice for company): it is a showy dish, but the whole is NOT greater than the sum of its parts (unlike bolognese, lasagna, moussaka, or Wellington). What you have after you slice it is just salmon with rice, pastry, and assorted stuff - it doesn't congeal, transform itself, do cartwheels, or anything. So be sure not to overcook the salmon before wrapping it, or all is already lost. Also season it well, becsuse it won't improve after the pastry is cooked. What you see is what you get. Personally, it was fun the first few times because it's pretty (especially if you sculpt the pastry to resemble fish scales), but you get more taste bang for the buck if you cook the salmon in a pot pie or en papillote. Just my opinion (and those of my sharpest critics).

                1. re: Claudette

                  I can see that--it will need a lovely/buttery sauce (just a tad) to pull it together. Otherwise it looks like it might come out both dry and plain. Any feedback to this end would be greatly appreciated!

                  1. re: Funwithfood

                    Yes, buttery sauce seems most important. I couldn't find the Balthazar recipe online, but did find the below photo from a Balthazar meal on someone's flickr album. Just in case the photo doesn't show up, I've included the link.

                    Looks tasty to me, plus I love finding new ways to feature dill. Do the French have a version that's different from the Russian one? Is it the sauce?



                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      Wow! What a gorgeous photo. This motivates me more than ever--thanks for posting it.
                      (Naturally, Emeril's did not look nearly as nice.)

                2. re: Funwithfood

                  Honestly, I have never made this legendary item myself. As to anathema - being a chowhound is all about deliciousness. What's delicious to one person is not delicious to another. You have to please your own family and nobody else. Does the hard boiled egg add something really wonderful to the gestalt? I don't know, never having eaten it. Carb lover is a lot more sophisticated than I am in the subtleties of recipes, perhaps she will weigh in on this.

              2. re: Niki Rothman

                Many years ago, answering a challenge for the most complicated dish he had made, Craig Claiborne give a recipe for Coulibiac of Fresh Salmon that took up two whole pages in the NY Times, took two days of work and included bizarre ingredients such as vesiga (spinal cord of sturgeon).

                I just spent half an hour on the Times site looking for it, but couldn't find the story -- only a couple of references to it. It's apparently in his book Best of Craig Claiborne: 1,000 Recipes from His New York Times Food Columns and Four of His Classic Cookbooks.


                1. re: KRS

                  A couple years ago I was invited to a grand potluck with each person responsible for making a dish and bringing a special bottle of aged wine to accompany it. Not having a cellar, one of my friends volunteered to make something that would cover both our food obligations if I'd kick in a bottle for her. She ended up making salmon koulibiaca which stole the dinner spotlight - it was gorgous pastry sculpture as well as delicious. One of the best trades I ever made!

                  1. re: KRS

                    Spinal cord of sturgeon?! That recipe should be added to the 'difficult recipe' thread.

                2. l
                  La Dolce Vita

                  I made Beranbaum's version from "Pie & Pastry Bible" (p. 464). She spells it "coulibiac."

                  I don't know how closely her recipe follows the traditional version, because I'm no expert on Russian cooking. She calls for poaching the salmon, then adding a mushroom veloute sauce, layering it with couscous instead of rice, wrapping it in dill crepes before encasing it in puff pastry to keep the puff pastry from getting soggy.

                  This was a very time-consuming dish to make, but I did it ahead of time and froze it (unbaked). I served it at a holiday party for those guests who don't eat meat. I have to say, it was absolutely delicious, and I am usually not fond of most things made with salmon. My guests were very complimentary, and the reheated leftovers were quite good.

                  1. The simplified version in The Gourmet Cookbook (the big yellow one) uses as rich yeast dough (with butter, eggs and sour cream) instead of puff pastry.

                    It also quotes Chekhov:
                    'The kulebyaka should be appetizing, shameless in its nakedness, a temptation to sin.'

                    I suspect this is one of those dishes with roots in peasant and street food (indeed I've eaten rice and mushroom pastries from the Russian Bakery while walking down the street), but it also lends itself to being an artistic showcase. The use of puff pastry probably dates to the 19th century when the Russian royalty were in love with all things French.


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: paulj

                      At the risk of muddying the waters...I recall that 25 years ago the recipe called for brioche, not puff pastry (someone please tell me if I'm dreaming). But brioche is too thick and dry. Puff pastry is a lot prettier to shape.