Saumon En Croute with Alaska Sockeye and Pink Salmon
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 75 minutes
- Total Time: 105 minutes
- Servings: 6 to 8
- Yield: 2 cups cooked mushroon duxelles, 2 cups cooked rice, 1 pie
- 2 shallots, finely minced
- 2 Tablespoons plus ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup brown basmati rice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ cup water
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 large weathervane scallops, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 3 hard cooked eggs, peeled, coarsely chopped
- ½ bunch dill, coarsely chopped, plus a few dill fronds for garnish
- 4 cups assorted mushrooms, cleaned, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ½ cup cream sherry
- 2 Tablespoons crème fraiche, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped, tightly packed
- 4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour to roll out pastry
- 2 (9x9-inch) frozen puff pastry sheets
- 1 (1 lb.) Alaska sockeye salmon filet, skin off, pin bones removed
- 1 (1 lb.)Alaska pink salmon filet, skin off, pin bones removed
- 1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
- Salmon caviar, for garnish
Step 1 Read the chef's notes
In the early part of the 20th century, the French chef named Auguste Escoffier modernized French cooking and almost singlehandedly brought it to the world. He elevated our métier and reorganized the restaurant kitchen. Its construct, “brigade de cuisine”, remains mostly unchanged to this day. Chef Escoffier also documented a compendium of recipes and techniques that gave birth to what is known today as The Classic French Cuisine. Thousands of those recipes became the bedrock of curriculum in cooking schools the world over.
It was late nineteen eighties, and I was learning how to cook at The French Culinary Institute in NYC. Escoffier’s name and teachings were referred to daily. There, I first learn to make Saumon En Croute, this fish pie’s French name. It impressed me how complex, grandiose, and celebratory it was. For my chef teachers, this dish was a perfect teaching tool as it utilized several French techniques like making puff pastry, mushroom duxelles, and rice pilaf. It also taught us how to layer ingredients within the crust, insulating the delicate salmon so it cooks perfectly.
Several decades went by. Fancy, rich French cooking fell out of fashion in favor of contemporary, lighter, and minimalist fare. Dishes like Saumon En Croute were all but forgotten. A bit later came the modern Spanish revolution in food. And chefs in every kitchen practiced culinary high wire acts increasing the gap and all but abandoning the centuries of food traditions.
Today, we have come full circle. I know I did. For me, cooking is still about the rigorous French technique and the soulful nod to its history. It is also about memories, inspirations, and traditions. Saumon En Croute is all that, as it takes pride in being unapologetically fancy, French, and complex. This dish, deeply steeped in rich culinary history, gives me comfort knowing I am not letting it be forgotten.
Another big reason why I am revisiting Saumon En Croute is, it’s tailormade to feature Alaska wild caught salmon. With so many species sustainably caught, Saumon En Croute is at its best celebrating these special creatures.
While deciding what kind of salmon would work best, I chose Alaska Sockeye for its vibrant red color. When cooked it shows nicely in the layers of this pie. Because I needed two filets, I also used Alaska pink salmon to complement. It’s rich and oily content provides a perfect textural diversity and tenderness to this dish.
With my grand intro, you might be intimidated to tackle The Saumon En Croute, I get it.
To make things easier, I substitute with store bought puff pastry as it significantly reduces prep time and demand for skill. First read the recipe in its entirety then set your “mise en place” together. Allow yourself uninterrupted time in the kitchen and just go for it. I promise you will be rewarded with something very, very special.
-Chef Vitaly Paley
Step 2 Make the rice
Add 2 tablespoons oil into a medium straight sided pan. Add half the chopped shallots. Cook over medium heat, stirring until shallots get translucent, about 2 minutes. Add rice, season generously with salt and pepper, and stir to toast lightly, another 2 minutes. Add water, bay leaf, and bring to a simmer, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, then cover. Cook until rice is done, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally prevent rice from sticking to bottom of pan.
When done, transfer rice to a bowl, add 1 tablespoon butter, then fluff it with a fork. Let rice completely cool, then add cut scallops, hard cooked eggs, and dill. Cover and refrigerate.
Step 3 Make mushroom duxelles
Pour remaining olive oil into a cast iron or a nonstick skillet. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until they develop slight coloration and are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add shallots and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes. Add sherry and cook until it has all been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add parsley and 2 tablespoons crème fraiche, then stir together. Transfer mushroom mixture into a food processor. Pulse 15 times, scraping down sides of processor every 5 pulses. Transfer to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Step 4 Prepare the puff pastry
Thaw puff pastry according to package directions. Line two sheet pans or cookie sheets with parchment paper. Lightly flour a work surface and a rolling pin. Gently roll one puff pastry sheet to about 12×17-inch rectangle. When done, gently roll the sheet around the rolling pin like one would roll up a window shade. Unroll it onto a parchment paper lined sheet pan and refrigerate.
Repeat the process with the remaining puff pastry but roll it out smaller, to about 10×15-inch size. If you have a cookie sheet without sides, use it as it will be easier to work with assembling the pie. If not, turn the cookie sheet over to achieve a similar effect.
Step 5 Assemble and bake salmon pie
Transfer the smaller pastry piece onto an upside-down cookie sheet lined with parchment. Start building the pie by spreading half of the rice mixture on the pastry by forming a rectangle about same size as the sockeye filet. Generously season the sockeye salmon filet with salt and pepper on both sides and place spine side up on the rice. Evenly spread the mushroom duxelles on top of the salmon filet. Season pink salmon filet generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Place it spine side down, tail side of filet on top of the head side (thicker on top of thinner so it cooks more evenly). Spread remained of rice mixture on top of the pink salmon. Generously brush puff pastry border, around the salmon and the stuffing, with egg wash. Carefully lay the second pastry sheet over the salmon and the stuffing. Pull it as close as you can around the salmon and the stuffing to avoid air bubbles from forming. With your fingers, firmly press down all around to seal. Trim pastry by cutting it around the pie, leaving about 1/2 to 3/4-inch all around. With the back of a fork, gently press all around the pastry to seal it. If desired, use the back of a knife to gently make a crosshatch pattern on pie top. Generously brush the egg wash all over then refrigerate while preheating the oven to 350F, about 10 minutes. Brush a second coat of egg wash to ensure a superior golden-brown look before baking. Use a paring knife, pierce top of pie just enough to cut through the pastry in 3 places, about 2 inches apart. This will ensure that bubbles will not form, eliminating crust blowouts.
Place sheet pan, with fish pie on it, in middle of oven; cook 30 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 400F; turn the pie in oven. Bake until pastry is uniformly golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Step 6 Serve
Remove pie from oven; cool 5 to 10 minutes. Using a sharp knife, cut the pie into 2-to-3-inch pieces. Using a large, sturdy spatula, transfer slices onto dinner plates. Spoon a generous amount of crème fraiche on each slice, garnish with a generous serving of salmon caviar, few sprigs of dill and serve right away.