Posts Tagged ‘Fish’

Rainbow Trout Coulibiac

March 21, 2010

Ingredients: rainbow trout, puff pastry dough, flour, egg, basmati rice, wild rice, button mushroom, chanterelle mushroom, porcini mushroom, onion, parsley, butter, white wine, black pepper, salt.

Served with: cold dill sauce (crème fraîche, dill, black pepper, salt).

Long story short — this took me forever to make and was hardly worth the effort. Since I don’t often write about failures, one might get the impression that everything I cook is amazing. Not true. What usually happens is that I try again, then post when I get it right. In this case, though, I don’t intend to try again.

It all started with an episode of Dinner Impossible. Robert Irvine, in his quest to provide food for several hundred indiscriminately-palated people, wraps an entire side of salmon (plus some other random ingredients) in puff pastry and calls it coulibiac. I’d never heard that term before, so I fumbled around the Internet looking for answers.

Coulibiac is a French interpretation of the traditional Russian kulebyáka (“fish pie”), and is meant to be served at a banquet or other special occasion. Within a brioche or puff pastry shell are layers of salmon, wild rice, duxelles (sautéed mushroom mince), hard-boiled egg, and herbs. Recipes vary, but most recommend serving the slices of pie with either beurre blanc (a tangy butter sauce) or dilled sour cream. It sounded like a worthwhile experiment.

I began the project one day early by poaching 2 whole rainbow trout (which is in the salmon family, but less fatty). I had actually wanted to do something like this for a while, as a means to replenish my supply of fish stock (which I keep frozen in ice cube form). To prepare the stock/poaching liquid, I combined onion, leek, garlic, fennel, carrot, rutabaga, parsnip, and celeriac in a stock pot with plenty of water and brought it to boil. Then I turned down the heat and added bay leaf, parsley, a couple black peppercorns, star anise, salt, and the 2 cleaned trout. After a few minutes of gentle simmering, the fish was perfectly poached. I carefully separated flesh from bone, returning the latter to the pot so as to continue extracting gelatin and flavor. After another 20 minutes, I strained the liquid and let it reduce a bit further before storing it away for future recipes.

In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t very happy with the stock. It was overwhelmingly “rooty.” I will use proportionally more leeks and onions next time, and perhaps a different fish. On the plus side, the star anise was a nice touch.

Moving on, I prepared 4 hard-boiled eggs and chopped them for later. I also prepared some basmati and wild rice, cooked separately (using some of the fish stock) and then mixed together. It was a hassle, but wild rice takes much longer to soften than regular rice, and I didn’t want to risk ruining the combined texture by having one be under- or overcooked.

Next to prepare were the mushrooms. I used a blend of 3 varieties: fresh button mushrooms, canned chanterelles, and dried porcinis. I soaked the porcinis, rinsed the chanterelles, and diced everything up finely (along with half an onion). I sautéed this mince in plenty of butter on low heat, using a splash of white wine here and there to keep it from drying out. I seasoned the duxelles with salt, pepper, and parsley.

With everything ready to assemble, I began to unwrap the puff pastry. This is not something I’ve ever done before, and it showed. My nice sheets of dough became sad torn lumps on the counter. As I reached for the rolling pin and flour, I wondered resentfully why I’d chosen to buy the dough pre-made, or why I ever bother to bake at all.

In a feat of tireless ambition, I managed to get the damn pie together. My energy level was certainly waning as I carefully spread layers of rice, mushrooms, fish, eggs, and more rice, followed by a top layer of puff pastry and egg wash. In a giggling mockery of anyone who has ever put effort into pie crust latticework, I “decorated” the coulibiac with random strips of unused dough, in no discernable pattern. Regardless, it looked pretty awesome coming out of the oven.

Dinner was a letdown on the plate, though. I really did try to infuse flavor into each component of the coulibiac, but it simply tasted flat and lifeless. I was bored eating it. Did I do something wrong? Why is this considered “a classic?” I think I would have enjoyed the dish with a real beurre blanc sauce on the side, or with a more assertive fish instead of the trout. Either way, I was not impressed or inspired. Mostly I was exhausted.


Miso Cod

September 21, 2009


Ingredients: cod, fermented yellow soybeans, soy sauce, dry sherry, palm sugar, ginger, peanut oil, sesame oil, black pepper, salt.
Served with: snap peas, button mushrooms, bamboo, fermented yellow soybeans, black sesame seeds, white rice.

Miso-Glazed Black Cod, a heavenly teriyaki-style fish preparation, is a popular dish these days. I almost said “hot,” but stopped myself because honestly I have no idea if it’s already passé. All I know is that I first tried it in an upscale sushi restaurant outside Philadelphia, was blown away, and subsequently read about the exact same dish in a variety of blogs and food magazines. Apparently it is a Nobuyuki Matsuhisa original, from his famous Nobu restaurant in NYC.

I noticed some beautiful cod fillets in the supermarket here, so I decided to have a go at preparing Miso Cod myself. I began the marinade with mashed fermented yellow beans, which I figured would be close enough to miso. I used dry sherry instead of sake, and filled out the flavor with plenty of palm sugar (brown sugar works just as well), ginger powder, peanut oil, sesame oil, salt, and pepper. I let the cod swim in that for about a day and a half, less than the recommended 3 days but surely (?) enough to please.

To cook the fish, I placed the fillets onto foil and broiled them until mildly charred, then turned down the heat in the oven and let them finish for a few minutes. I served the cod with a quick stir-fry of snap peas, bamboo shoot strips, button mushrooms, and some whole yellow fermented soybeans (the same ones I mashed for the marinade). White rice and black sesame seeds rounded out the meal.

My cod was fine, but decidedly un-heavenly. What went wrong? The texture of the fish just didn’t seem to match the one in my memory. I was looking for a crispy, glazy, charry exterior, with a dense but silky inner texture. What I made was just sort of wet – inside and out. I had tried to pat it dry as much as possible before broiling, but it’s almost as if I had used the wrong kind of fish.

Lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened. Thanks Google! Apparently, “cod” has nothing to do with “black cod,” which is another name for sable. I’ve had sable before, but only in cold-smoked deli form. Still, it makes sense, because I remember it having a silky, oily texture (which I liked very much). I can totally imagine that crisping up under a broiler.

Okay then, guess I’ll be looking for black cod from now on.