Salmon Coulibiac Is a Genius Make-Ahead Holiday Dish

In this modern update to coulibiac, a parcel of phyllo encloses an elegant holiday feast.
By Kelsey Youngman
December 10, 2020

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.

1. Trim the Salmon

Credit: Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Using a sharp knife, trim the boneless, skinless salmon fillet into a 9- x 4-inch rectangle.

2. Season the Salmon

Credit: Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper; spread whole-grain mustard evenly over top of salmon.

3. Butter and Layer Phyllo

Credit: Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Brush the phyllo sheets with butter; stack neatly, and set aside. Repeat with 4 sheets to create a second stack.

4. Add Rice and Salmon

Credit: Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Form rice into a 9- x 4-inch rectangle centered on the stack of 6 buttered phyllo sheets. Top with mustard-brushed salmon.

5. Add Beets and Kale

Credit: Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Shingle pickled beets over salmon, slightly overlapping slices. Top beets with garlicky sautéed kale in an even layer.

6. Fold up Phyllo

Credit: Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Fold the phyllo around layered ingredients to create a boat shape, pleating edges to tightly encase stack.

7. Wrap with Phyllo

Credit: Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Drape remaining stack of 4 buttered phyllo sheets over layered parcel, tucking top edges under parcel. Brush top with melted butter.

8. Make the Phyllo Topping

Credit: Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

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.

9. Drizzle and Bake

Credit: Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Drizzle scrunched phyllo on top of parcel evenly with 2 tablespoons melted butter; bake as directed.

Credit: Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas
Credit: Photo by Caitlin Bensel / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas