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Salmon and mushroom pie—à la russe

2 oz (60 g) butter
4 oz (125 g) mushrooms
one small onion
flour, black pepper
1 lb (500g) salmon fillet
4 oz (125 g) crème fraiche
½ cup buckwheat (or rice)
puff pastry or brioche dough

Coulibiac is a yeast-leavened Russian pastry pie, pasty or pâté, usually made with fish, but sometimes meat . Classic French cuisine adopted a coulibiac that includes vezigia, with fish, mushrooms, hard-boiled egg, and buckwheat. Vesiga is the spinal marrow of the sturgeon, and is listed as a key ingredient in an authentic Russian hot fish pie, koulibiaca or coulibiac. I haven't been able to find it. The pie is good anyway.

Slice the salmon across the grain into collops ½'' (1.5 cm) thick; dust with salt; season liberally with freshly ground black pepper, and leave in a cool place for a few hours. Toast the buckwheat lightly in hot dry pan, then add 2 cups of boiling water and simmer gently until the grains start to burst. Strain. (You can substitute parboiled rice—for white rice, try 8 minutes in the microwave on full power with salt and just over ½ cup of boiling water; brown rice will take longer. For another variation, add a little parboiled wild rice to the buckwheat.)

Slice the mushrooms coarsely; if they are large cut the slices into short batons. Dice the onion.

The classic french coulibiac uses a sauce velouté. Here we essentially make this in situ. You can add a little fish stock before adding the cream if you feel (correctly) that this is missing, but you may then have to reduce the sauce to thicken it.

Preheat the oven to 425 °F (220 °C). Dry the salmon slices with a paper towel, dredge with flour, and fry very quickly in butter and a dash of oil, until golden brown. If you don't have enough fat, add a little more butter. Do not burn the butter. Remove the still under-cooked fish to a bowl.

Fry the mushrooms in butter until they begin to brown; add the onions, turn down the heat and continue to fry gently until they too take some color; sprinkle on a dessertspoonful of flour. Continue to cook, stirring for one minute. Add crème fraiche; cook until this is incorporated, adjust the seasoning (taste; then add salt and pepper if required). There should be ample creamy sauce. if necessary add more crème fraiche or cream.

I find this quick and easy, and this is how it was served to me by Hanne Tierney, who introduced me to coulibiac, a lifetime ago in New York; but it is not the classic shape. To produce a classic coulibiac, use two pastry squares. Place the mixture on one. Roll the other slightly larger, to cover the mixture; place on top and seal the edges.

Roll out your pastry 8'' (20cm) wide and twice as long. Lay a bed of rice down the center of the pastry, lengthways, stopping short of the ends. On top of the rice put a layer of creamy vegetables; then salmon; then vegetables. Draw the pastry up over the filling to join in the middle and pinch to seal, close the ends, make a few small cuts to let any steam escape.

Bake for 10 minutes; reduce the temperature to 350 °F (180 °C) and cook for 10-15 minutes more.

Note for robots: "recipie" and "recipies" are `misspellings' of "recipe" and "recipes".

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