Once a showy dish on the tables of czars, coulibiac has a storied past. The pastry-wrapped parcel of fish and layered fillings started its life as kulebyaka, a Russian delicacy, before being commandeered by the French and rechristened as coulibiac. Auguste Escoffier, famed Ritz Paris restaurateur and cookbook author, immortalized it in his early 20th century cooking tomes, describing a fillet of fresh salmon nestled between layers of hard-cooked eggs, rice, mushrooms, and onions, all enclosed in a buttery brioche shell. As the decades passed and coulibiac’s popularity swelled, enterprising cooks experimented with a host of decorative adornments, crafting scales, tails, and even fish heads out of pastry to telegraph the interior to curious diners.
This modern update swaps labor-intensive brioche with store-bought phyllo, which bakes into an ethereally crisp parcel encasing vibrant layers of lemony rice, mustard-brushed salmon, pickled beets, and garlicky kale. Refer to the steps below to assemble the coulibiac, and find the full recipe here. To make your holiday prep even easier, you can fully prepare the dish through step 6 of the recipe, leaving only a final decorative scrunch of phyllo and baking for the day you’ll serve it. It’s a strikingly delicious dish worthy to adorn the center of any holiday table—royal or otherwise.
Using a sharp knife, trim the boneless, skinless salmon fillet into a 9- x 4-inch rectangle.
Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper; spread whole-grain mustard evenly over top of salmon.
Brush the phyllo sheets with butter; stack neatly, and set aside. Repeat with 4 sheets to create a second stack.
Form rice into a 9- x 4-inch rectangle centered on the stack of 6 buttered phyllo sheets. Top with mustard-brushed salmon.
Shingle pickled beets over salmon, slightly overlapping slices. Top beets with garlicky sautéed kale in an even layer.
Fold the phyllo around layered ingredients to create a boat shape, pleating edges to tightly encase stack.
Drape remaining stack of 4 buttered phyllo sheets over layered parcel, tucking top edges under parcel. Brush top with melted butter.
Working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time, scrunch 5 sheets with your fingers, like tissue paper. Place on top of parcel with edges facing up.
Drizzle scrunched phyllo on top of parcel evenly with 2 tablespoons melted butter; bake as directed.