Coulibiac of eggplant & mushrooms

Coulibiac of eggplant and mushroom

My mom is cleaning out her bookshelves, and she found an old New York Times cookbook from the late seventies. I find it oddly inspiring to look through these somewhat dated, mostly meat recipes. You can discover seasonings and techniques that aren’t often mentioned in vegetarian cookbooks. You can find an appealing lack of concern for healthiness or ease of preparation. These aren’t lo-fat, five-minute, two-ingredient meals. These are dishes invented by chefs! Named after those chefs, who lived decades or even centuries ago. Here at The Ordinary, we sometimes imagine that we might dream up or stumble upon some technique the seems crazy at first, but becomes standard, a staple, a classic.

My attention was first caught by the name: Coulibiac. I always want to make dishes with funny names! No matter what they are are what ingredients they contain. Coulibiac…I read on…I was charmed by the strangely elaborate recipe. Craig Claiborne describes it thus, “A coulibiac is a celestial creation, manna for the culinary gods and a main course in and of itself. A coulibiac admittedly demands patience, time, talent and enthusiasm, and if you are possessed of these, what a magnificent offering to those invited to your table.” Well, a challenge! I have time and enthusiasm, and I can fudge the rest! Of course, I don’t eat salmon or vesiga, which is a ropelike, gelatinous substance made from the spinal marrow of a sturgeon. Would this stop me? No it would not! The dish also calls for rice, and I happened to have some leftover. I began to think of my coulibiac as the most elaborate use for leftover rice a person could devise! A very small amount of research has revealed that coulibiac is a russian version of a french dish. It seems they very sweetly added any remotely french thing they could think of, and stuffed it all inside of brioche dough. (Apparently russians would stuff anything inside of pastry, and Hey ho! So will I!) I’ve simplified this dish considerably, because somehow my day folded up on itself, and I ran out of time to make the crepes. That’s right, inside the brioche dough, you’re supposed to have a layer of crepes. Someday I’ll make it like that! And I didn’t add the stick of melted butter that you’re supposed to pour through the hole in the dough at the end. And that I may never do! But I did make a brioche dough. And I made a paté of mushrooms, eggplant and white beans. And I glorified my leftover cooked rice by mixing it with parsley, basil and a hard-boiled egg. This was fun to make, and not as complicated as it seems. It was large and delicious, and looked quite impressive. I think it would make a good party dish, a magnificent offering to those at your table!

Here’s Mississippi John Hurt with Blue Harvest Blues. It feels as though so much is ripening right at this moment!

BRIOCHE DOUGH

3 1/2 cups flour
1 t salt
1/2 cup warm milk
1 t yeast
1 t sugar
3 eggs
1 stick butter – very soft

Combine the yeast, sugar and warm milk in a medium-sized bowl. Mix in 1/2 cup flour. Cover, and set aside in a warm place to get foamy – at least half an hour. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture, the butter and the three eggs. Stir until combined, and then knead until everything is incorporated and you have a workable dough. Add warm water if it’s too dry, and add flour if it’s too sticky.

Knead for about 7 minutes, then leave in a large buttered bowl, covered with a damp cloth. Let it rise at least two hours, till it’s tall and fluffy. you can leave it all afternoon if you’d like!

Fold it over and let it rise again while you prepare the filling.

THE FILLING

1 eggplant (medium-sized)
10 oz mushrooms – processed till fine but chunky – not completely smooth
1 shallot – finely chopped
1 clove garlic – minced
2 T olive oil
1 t thyme
1 t rosemary
1/3 cup white wine
1 cup white beans rinsed and drained
2 eggs – beaten
salt and lots of pepper
1 cup sharp cheddar

1 cup cooked rice
1 cup loosely packed parsley and basil, washed and chopped
1 hard boiled egg, peeled

Preheat the oven to 400. Puncture the eggplant in 4 or 5 places, and bake on a baking sheet for about 40 minutes till it’s collapsingly soft. Peel the flesh from the skin and mash it with a fork till it’s a chunky purée.

Warm the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for about 5 minutes, till it’s transparent and starting to brown. Add the garlic, stir and cook for a few minutes. Add the thyme and rosemary. Add the mushrooms, stir and cook for about ten minutes, till they release their juices, and then the pan dries out again. When they start to coat the bottom of the pan and stick, add the wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan, and stir and cook for a few minutes. Add the eggplant purée, mix everything together well, and continue to cook for about five minutes. Add the white beans, stir and cook till everything is warmed through, a few more minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Season well with salt and pepper. Stir in the cheddar and the two eggs – reserving about 1 T of egg for later.

Cut the hard-boiled egg into a few pieces. Combine it in a food processor with the parsley and basil. And process for a minute or so, till you have a crumbly consistency. Mix this with the rice.

Butter a large baking sheet. Break the brioche dough into two pieces. Roll/pull/stretch one piece to be the size of the baking sheet. Spread 1/3 of the rice/parsley mixture over this, leaving about an inch of dough on all sides. Spread half the eggplant/mushroom mixture over this. Then 1/3 of the rice, then the rest of the eggplant, then the rest of the rice.

Roll/stretch the remaining dough to fit over the top, and spread it over. Pinch and roll the sides so that they’re sealed. Pinch off some extra dough to make a little decoration, and form a neat hole in the center of the pastry.

Brush the top with egg. Bake for about 1/2 hour, till the top is golden and puffed.

2 thoughts on “Coulibiac of eggplant & mushrooms

    • Thank you! And, of course, you’re right – I should have taken a picture of the inside. I only thought of that after it was all eaten! I’ll have to make another – with crepes this time.

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