Kulebiaka is a savory Russian pie traditionally filled with fish, rice, chopped egg, and mushrooms.
I had never heard of it until a couple of years ago when, on vacation in Las Vegas, my friends and I happened upon an outlandish Russian restaurant.
This place featured hundreds of different types of vodka and a headless statue of Lenin in the entryway.
Lenin's head, we later discovered, was located among the mists of the frozen vodka bar.
Only in Vegas!
This restaurant served kulebiaka and I decided that it was something that I could try making at home.
With a couple of changes, including adding cream to the mushrooms and leaving out the egg, I came up with a recipe that I liked.
If you are in the mood for something completely different, try this dish.
It is quite tasty and, with its wild-looking puff pastry shell, this dish is a crowd-stunner.
Russian-Style Green Salad with Chopped Egg, Cucumber, Tomato and Creamy Dill Dressing
1/2 cup long-grained white rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, minced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
16 ounces skinned salmon fillet (about 1/2-inch thick), cut into 4 even pieces
2 sheets frozen puff pastry (one 17 ounce package), thawed
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Bring 1 cup of water to a gentle boil in a medium pot.
Add the rice and salt and stir.
Lower the heat and simmer until the rice is cooked through.
Fluff the rice with a fork and set aside.
To make the rice filling, heat a nonstick pan over medium heat.
When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter.
Add 1/2 of the onions and cook, stirring frequently, about 3 to 4 minutes until the onions are translucent but not browned.
Add the dill and cook for an additional 15 seconds.
Add the cooked rice, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice.
Stir to mix the ingredients together thoroughly.
Remove from heat and set aside.
To make the mushroom filling, heat another nonstick pan over medium heat.
When hot, add the remaining olive oil and butter.
Add the remaining onions and cook as before, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes until the mushrooms are softened.
Add the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
Add the cream and cook until the cream has reduced by half (about 3 minutes).
Remove from heat and set aside.
Sprinkle the salmon pieces lightly with salt and pepper.
Grease a very large baking sheet.
Roll out 1 puff pastry sheet on a floured surface to a 12 inch square.
Cut into 4 equal pieces and place the squares on the baking sheet.
Place 1/4 of the rice filling onto one of the squares, mounding it into an oval so as to make it as compact as possible.
Place 1/4 of the mushroom filling on top of the rice and then place one piece of the salmon on top of the mushrooms.
Roll out the remaining pastry sheet to a size slightly larger than the first sheet (13 inches should be fine).
Cut into 4 equal pieces.
Lay one square on top of the salmon and filling and press lightly to seal the edges where the two squares of pastry meet.
(Don't press too hard or the pastry won't rise.)
Repeat these steps with the other three squares.
You can chill the assembled pastries up to 8 hours ahead if you wish.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Brush the tops of the pastries with the egg and water mixture.
Bake in the oven until golden (about 30 minutes).
Transfer the pastries to plates and serve.
Makes 4 servings
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After baking for the suggested period of time in the recipe, I usually cut into one of the pastries to make sure that the fish is cooked thoroughly before serving.
If you are making this for a fancy party and don't want to sacrifice one of your pastries, you can insert a thermometer into the fish.
If it registers 145 degrees fahrenheit, it is fully cooked.
Puff pastry can sometimes be fickle so there are a couple of good rules to know before using it.
Always thaw the pastry before rolling it out or it may break apart.
Never press down too hard on the dough or it may not puff correctly.
Also, when cutting the dough, always press down with the knife rather than sliding the knife across it; if the dough stretches too much, it may not puff as well.