Traditional recipes

Blini with Smoked Salmon

Blini with Smoked Salmon

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter.

Skim off the white foam with a spoon and discard. This is called clarifying the butter, which means you are removing the milk solids in the butter. Allow the butter to stand for a few minutes to settle and then pour out the butter into another bowl, leaving the rest of the milk solids on the bottom of the saucepan. Set aside the clarified butter.You will have more clarified butter than you need for this recipe. Store, covered, in the refrigerator and use for other dishes.

Whisk the flours, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

Combine the milk, egg and 1 Tablespoon clarified butter in a liquid measuring cup and add to the dry ingredients, whisking to combine. The batter will be kind of thin.

Heat some clarified butter on medium heat on a griddle or a nonstick skillet. Using a spoon, pour a small amount of batter (about 1 Tablespoon) on the griddle and cook until golden on both sides.You’ll know when to flip the blini over when the top of the pancake has tiny bubbles across its surface.

Top with a small dallop of sour cream, a piece of smoked salmon and fresh herbs.

Since they are so small, they cook so quickly. You can make a huge batch for any party in no time at all. To keep the finished pancakes warm, place them on a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven. These are best served warm.


Recipe Summary

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons snipped chives, plus more for garnish
  • 2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded ( 1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 cup buckwheat flour (see Note)
  • 4 ounces sliced smoked salmon, cut into thin strips
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2/3 cup skim milk
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

In a medium bowl, whisk the buckwheat flour, baking powder and dry mustard. Whisk in the milk until smooth. Add the 1 1/2 tablespoons of chives and the cheddar and season the batter with salt and pepper.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm peaks form. Whisk one-fourth of the whites into the batter. Fold in the remaining whites.

Heat a griddle over moderate heat until very hot and spray with vegetable oil spray. Spoon 1-tablespoon mounds of batter onto the griddle and cook until bubbles form around the edges of the blini, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook the blini for about 30 seconds longer.

Transfer the blini to a platter and top with the smoked salmon and a dollop of sour cream. Garnish the blini with chives and serve right away.


Ingredients

  • 50g butter
  • 175ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 170g plain flour (or use 40g buckwheat flour and 130g plain flour, if you like), sifted
  • 2 sachets fast-acting yeast
  • Pinch of golden caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • Butter, for cooking
  • To serve:
  • 300g soured cream, smetana (Russian cultured cream) or crème fraîche
  • 3 tbsps creamed or grated fresh horseradish
  • 200g smoked salmon
  • A small bunch of dill
  • Caviar (optional)

Blini With Smoked Salmon

I don’t think any culture respects and adores appetizers as much as Russians do. No feast is complete without a generous assortment of many different kinds of zakuski, which is from the word zakusit’, which means “to take a small bite”. There is usually such an excessive variety of appetizers, that by the time you take a small portion of each, you are too full to enjoy the main meal!

For Russians, the most popular form of entertaining is to invite your guests over for tea. Laid back and fun, this gathering requires minimal effort. It’s the best atmosphere to relax, talk, laugh and enjoy morsels of food with lots of tea (or coffee). There are no requirements and you can make it as simple or as fancy as you like. You can serve only cookies or sandwiches or have a whole array of appetizers.

These tiny, savory blini (pancakes) are topped with a dallop of sour cream, smoked salmon and fresh herbs. The blini have a hearty taste, but are also very dainty and light. With the addition of refreshing sour cream and thin slivers of smoky, rich salmon, these blini are SO satisfying. For an even more traditional approach to this dish, top the blini with caviar instead of the salmon.

They are simple to prepare, which qualifies for a simple gathering but its elegant look and taste is perfect to be served in the czar’s palace.

Yields: about 24

Ingredients:

1/3 cup buckwheat or whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons milk

1/2 lb smoked salmon, thinly sliced

about 1/4 cup sour cream or creme fraiche

dill, chives, for garnishing

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Skim off the white foam with a spoon and discard. This is called clarifying the butter, which means you are removing the milk solids in the butter. Allow the butter to stand for a few minutes to settle and then pour out the butter into another bowl, leaving the rest of the milk solids on the bottom of the saucepan. Set aside the clarified butter.Whenever using butter to saute or cook something in a skillet, it burns very easily. Clarified butter has a much higher smoke point (it starts to burn/smoke at a higher temperature) than regular butter, which is why we are doing this extra step. This way, the blini will be nice and golden, not black and half raw.

You will have more clarified butter than you need for this recipe. Store, covered, in the refrigerator and use for other dishes.

Whisk the flours, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Combine the milk, egg and 1 Tablespoon clarified butter in a liquid measuring cup and add to the dry ingredients, whisking to combine. The batter will be kind of thin. Heat some clarified butter on medium heat on a griddle or a nonstick skillet. Using a spoon, pour a small amount of batter (about 1 Tablespoon) on the griddle and cook until golden on both sides.You’ll know when to flip the blini over when the top of the pancake has tiny bubbles across its surface. Top with a small dallop of sour cream, a piece of smoked salmon and fresh herbs.

Since they are so small, they cook so quickly. You can make a huge batch for any party in no time at all. To keep the finished pancakes warm, place them on a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven. These are best served warm, but I didn’t mind eating up the cold ones one bit:).


Recipe Summary

  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 pound smoked salmon, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons creme fraiche
  • Fresh dill, for garnish

To clarify the butter, melt it in a small saucepan over low heat. Using a spoon, remove white foam from surface of melted butter, and discard. Allow butter to sit 15 minutes. Pour off the golden liquid, leaving the sediment in the bottom of the saucepan. Set aside.

Place buckwheat and all-purpose flours, baking powder, salt, egg, milk, and 1 tablespoon clarified butter in a large bowl whisk until well combined.

Heat 2 tablespoons clarified butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Drop batter into skillet, 1 tablespoon at a time. Cook until blinis are covered with bubbles, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip cook until brown, about 1 minute more. Repeat with remaining batter.

To serve, top blinis with the smoked salmon, 1/2 teaspoon creme fraiche, and a sprig of dill.


Blini with Smoked Salmon

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour sifted
  • 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 4 lemons sliced into wedges
  • 2 cups sour cream or creme fraiche, plus extra for garnish
  • dill sprigs, for garnish
  • 10 slices smoked salmon
  • vegetable oil for greasing griddle

Instructions

…The Backstory continues: There were big personalities attached to the restaurant (as only a restaurant in NY could have) and through the years, the ownership and management of the place) seemed to be as infamous as its platters of blini with smoked salmon and icy bottles of champagne and vodka.

Nonetheless, by the time I finally sat down for brunch in one of the Tea Room’s infamous red leather booths and took in the glitzy mirrors, I was enamored. The meal was delicious, the rose champagne, icy cold and perfect, and the salmon paper thin, buttery, and as delectable as the melt-in-your-mouth blini. It was, in short, pure heaven.

The Russian Tea Room later closed down in 2002 and after a multi-million-dollar makeover and change of ownership and management (once again), reopened in 2006. Friends of mine have been back since the re-opening but I’m told the food and service are not the same, although the glitz, mirrors, and over-the-top decor remain. I’ve not been back but my memories of a glorious meal endure.

Following is a recipe for quick blinis. Add some thinly sliced smoked salmon, sour cream or creme fraiche, and of course, some excellent champagne, and you can create a little Russian Tea Room magic of your own. This recipe is well worth the effort and truly does not take that much time for the stellar results. Have all your toppings ready and the rest is easy.


Blini with smoked salmon (or gravlax)

Blini are a staple at pretty much any excuse for a party in Russia. And it's easy to understand why. These little pancakes, topped with smoked salmon and sour cream, make elegant and delicious little bites fit for any occasion.

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I know I've often talked about my time in Spain and a few times about Germany, but not so much Russia. It's not that it didn't make an impression on me - quite the opposite - but food was less often a selling point, as I talked about when I shared my borscht recipe.

There definitely are some tasty Russian recipes, but they can be a little hard to seek out. Blini, however, are something you find all over.

I've been to Russia a number of times in a few guises, and pretty much every time we gathered in some way, we had blini. You get different toppings, with caviar being a common one, or other seafood such as smoked salmon, but sour cream ('smetana') was pretty much always there in some way.

I remember having them the first time I went to Russia and we had a mini party at the end. We'd had some food during the camp that was a bit hard to get used to, so these were a pleasant treat. The flavors are mild, but they're great to snack on, and alongside a drink. Which was just as well that time as we all needed to make a toast, individually, in traditional style.

How to make blini

Traditionally blini are made with either all buckwheat flour or part buckwheat, part regular flour as I have here. Often, these days, they are made purely with all purpose flour. While that saves hunting down a less common flour, I do think the buckwheat helps give a gently distinct flavor.

You'll find some versions going more the route of more familiar pancakes using baking powder/soda, but yeast is another part of what gives them their flavor, I think.

Buckwheat flour comes in a couple of different shades, which is why you might think theses are darker than you might expect. Technically the dark flour is better nutritionally, but it is a little coarser, so use what you can find or prefer.

You could easily use smoked salmon here, but I've actually used some gravlax, partly as I'd made some but also I love the flavor here. The slight sweetness and dill from the cure mixture works well wit the blini and sour cream.

These blini with smoked salmon or gravlax are an easy and elegant finger food. They're at the middle of any Russian party table for a reason, as they both look the part and taste great too. Give them a try and you'll see what I mean.


Blini with Smoked Salmon

I first went to The Russian Tea Room in 1999. I was 35 years old and as a born and bred New Yorker, I had always wanted to go when I lived in New York but never had. In fact, by the time I actually made it there, I was living in Chicago and was visiting New York on business. I grew up hearing stories about the many celebrities and hoi-polloi that lunched and dined at the fancy West Side establishment, and how it had changed hands several times, and all the drama that ensued as a result of this high society wheeling and dealing.

There were big personalities attached to the restaurant (as only a restaurant in NY could have) and through the years, the ownership and management of the place) seemed to be as infamous as its platters of blini with smoked salmon and icy bottles of champagne and vodka.

Nonetheless, by the time I finally sat down for brunch in one of the Tea Room’s infamous red leather booths and took in the glitzy mirrors, I was enamored. The meal was delicious, the rose champagne, icy cold and perfect, and the salmon paper thin, buttery, and as delectable as the melt-in-your-mouth blini. It was, in short, pure heaven.

The Russian Tea Room later closed down in 2002 and after a multi-million-dollar makeover and change of ownership and management (once again), reopened in 2006. Friends of mine have been back since the re-opening but I’m told the food and service are not the same, although the glitz, mirrors, and over-the-top decor remain. I’ve not been back but my memories of a glorious meal endure.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 5 oz. cans salmon in water drained Kosher Redhead wild Alaska sockeye salmon
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup scallions, diced
  • 1/4 cup cucumber, diced peeled or unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise you can add more or less to your preference
  • 1 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • dash Tobasco sauce
  • chopped dill for garnish (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Following is a recipe for quick blinis. Add some thinly sliced smoked salmon, sour cream or creme fraiche, and of course, some excellent champagne, and you can create a little Russian Tea Room magic of your own. This recipe is well worth the effort and truly does not take that much time for the stellar results. Have all your toppings ready and the rest is easy.


Recipe Summary

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.

Whisk 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk, egg, and 1 tablespoon melted butter together in a separate bowl. Mix into the flour mixture until batter is fully combined.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Drop batter, 1 tablespoon at a time, onto the heated skillet. Cook until bubbles form, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until brown, about 1 minute more. Lay on plate lined with a paper towel to help soak up excess butter. Repeat with the remaining batter.


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