4.14.2011

Recipe Box: Cornmeal Blinis

recipeboxheader
cornmeal blinis, smoked salmon, sour cream
Cornmeal blinis with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and chives.

Hi, hi. Do you like pancakes for dinner? I do. A lot. It doesn't matter what you want to call them (pancakes, griddle cakes, flapjacks, blinis) or whether they are sweet or savory. If it is a puddle of batter fried in grease on a hot griddle, there is a good likelihood that they are delicious. 

Those golden little pancakes in the photo are called blinis. They're small, light Russian pancakes, often topped with butter, sour cream or caviar. When Kurt and I visited Russia, we spent a couple of nights  in an idyllic bed and breakfast in Suzdal, an ancient, snow-covered village in the countryside. In the mornings, the owner's babushka would appear to serve us breakfast and tea. One morning, she brought out a large platter of blinis, along with a collection of little bowls and jars filled with toppings: sour cream, lingonberry preserves, butter and a mysterious salad made from what appeared to be hard boiled eggs, onions and smoked mackerel. (See a photo of the spread, here.) Although I was slightly discouraged by the fish salad (it was hairy with translucent thread-thin bones!), I was thrilled to see pancake's familiar cousins. They were perfectly browned and crisp around the edges, soft and thin like a fresh stack of folded linen. Delicious.

Unlike traditional blinis made from wheat and buckwheat flour, I made these with a wheat flour/yellow cornmeal mixture. They turned out to be melt-in-your-mouth savory and light with an extra bit of texture from the cornmeal. We ate these for a light dinner, along with a shredded beet and apple salad.

Cornmeal Blinis with Smoked Salmon
Makes 12 2.5" blinis

1/3 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup plus 3 tbsp whole milk
1 large egg
5 tbsp melted butter
1/2 lb smoked salmon, thinly sliced
1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
Optional: fresh dill, chives or capers for garnish

1. Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and mix well.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg and one tbsp melted butter.
3. Whisk milk/egg mixture into dry mixture.
4. Add 1 tbsp melted butter to a skillet over medium heat. Drop batter by the tablespoons onto skillet, two inches apart. Fry for 2 minutes, or until small bubbles appear on the top side of the blinis. Flip and cook for one minute longer, until golden. Repeat with the remaining batter. 
5. Top each blini with a sliced of smoked salmon, a spoonful of creme fraiche and a spring of fresh chives. 

*Alternate Version* 
In the May Issue of Martha Stewart Living, there's a recipe for a buttery spread made with dill, grapefruit zest and fennel that is reportedly paired well with smoked salmon. I can't wait to try this on these blinis in lieu of creme fraiche. If you're feeling adventurous, the recipe for the spread is: 1 stick softened butter, 1 tbsp fresh dill, 1 tbsp finely grated grapefruit zest, 1/2 tsp toasted fennel seeds, 1/8 tsp salt. Put all of these ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and incorporated.

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