First, a little housekeeping before we delve into the French Friday portion of the evening, let me just say, I am sorry to have missed out reading everyone’s posts until just a couple of days ago. We had a house full of guests visiting from Italy and I didn’t have a chance to get to everyone’s posts, including barely publishing mine, during their stay. But I am back on board, on time and excited to share our experience with the blinis! Thanks for all your patience, I know my own blog suffered a bit as I wasn’t able to keep up with my regular posts either. There has been a lot of cooking and baking going on in the kitchen and plenty of delicious items planned to look forward to, please check out my “catch-up” post here!
When I saw that blinis were on the schedule for this weeks French Fridays with Dorie, a chill went down my spine just a rush of adrenaline poured over me.
I mean NO ONE does a good job with blinis in Top Chef.
These guys are pretty seasoned chefs for the most part and should be able to make something like panna cotta and blinis right?
Except Marcel. Oi, not my favorite chef over the years. Too full of himself. But he made a successful, dessert blini. Of course he did.
Well, before I leave you with our thoughts on Dorie’s buckwheat blinis with smoked salmon and creme fraiche, lets re-visit the two blini moments in Top Chef, by happy accident, Wylie Dufresne – chef and owner of WD-50 in New York, judged both blini moments.
First, there was Marcel in Season 2 with his Blini with Kona Coffee caviar with Hawaiian Chocolate Mousse, he came out on top. Chef Wylie Dufresne said “How smart! A blini with ‘caviar.’ That’s great – I love that!” Of course he did! Marcel was the budding molecular gastronomist in the early years of Top Chef and did very well, until the end when he lost the title to Ilan. The faux caviar idea really caught on after that as many cheftestants pulled it out of their repertoire in the seasons that followed. Ok that was a successful one, but really, it was Marcel. Enough said.
Secondly, in Season 4, the elimination challenge dictated that the chefs cater a staff event for the Chicago Lincoln Park Zoo in teams of three, grouped by the animal on the knives they drew out of the ever famous Top Chef knife block. Each team had to build a menu around the diet of the animal their team was named for. Valerie, on Team Gorilla with Season Four’s crowned Top Chef winner, Stephanie, presented the worst dish of the evening, an olive blini; a made-to-serve food –- made hours in advance and wrapped while warm in plastic wrap, resulting in soggy finger food, Valerie had to pack up her knives.
And Dorie wants our group of humble home cooks to make blinis?!
Well, *shrugs* ok! At least from watching Top Chef I already know to serve them warm as they are being made, not hours in advance so I felt confidant that we could turn them out correctly, even if we wound up not liking them too much.
Due to the lack of whole milk available at the market today, we decided to substitute in buttermilk which gave the yeasty mixture a bit of a sour smell, but looked promising. We were also unable to locate any roe that wasnt smashed into a terrine, poached and flattened into a wide disc or some other bizarre way that caviar and roe comes pacakged here. Not even the fish monger had any. So we did without. It’s too bad too, as salmon roe is one of my favorite foods, the tiny, bright red balls that squish in your mouth? Pure deliciousness!
Aside from those two things, we didn’t deter from the recipe at all. And one of my all-time favorite condiments made an appearance….. creme fraiche!!! My husband has not yet been able to taste the lovely white cream that is creme fraiche so he just figured my little happy dance I was doing while walking into the grocery store was some kind of bizarre foodie fit and just walked a few feet in front of me, acting like he didnt know me. Ha! Don’t you worry, when he tastes the creme fraiche later, he will be doing a happy dance too!
Even if it’s behind closed doors.
Or in his dreams.
You know he will do the creme fraiche happy dance!
Of all the recipes so far, this was a pretty easy one to whip up – I had promised a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies to my neighbor so I figured I would whip up the blini batter and let it rise while I threw together the cookies and the timing couldn’t have worked out better. By the time the cookies were in the oven, I had the dill feathers (I love that description, dont you?), salmon, and creme fraiche ready to go and all I had to do was get the blini batter in the pan and “pancaking”… that’s where things got dicey.
Now everyone who has ever made a pancake knows about the first pancake rule. You always toss the first pancake out. It’s never the best and often not even good. It’s burnt because the griddle is too hot and you have to adjust, then the other pancakes turn out pretty darn good and tasty. The same is true for blinis. This is not the dicey part. The dicey part was flipping these little buggers!
In true Top Chef style, I decided that the two teaspoon portion of batter created a blini too large for any amuse bouche or challenge on Top Chef so I went with the one teaspoon portion of batter. And let me tell you, either I had had a bit too much sugar just before beginning my “pancaking”-blini making adventure or my “old age” is catching up with my hands, causing them to shake ever so much that when I went to flip my first few batches of blinis, the corners bent, only half the blini flipped so I was left with a kind of half-moon, calzone blini … they were certainly not going to hack it at judges table. Or sneak past Tom, Gail and Padma. This recipe really tested my pancaking abilities… something I didn’t realize or anticipate having problems with…. maybe its just regular pancakes that I dont worry about consistent sizes and shapes? …. either way I know that Heleen Thanas wont be knocking on my door so that I can man the pancake flipping station at Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant and Bakery in Chicago.
I finally got some control and started turning out nice, fairly circular, consistent sized blinis and dressed them quickly. We were both hungry from a light lunch and waiting on dinner that still had another hour and a half of reducing to go before we could dig in so it was imperative that I get these on the plate quickly, slowing down only long enough to take a few pictures.
I set the plate down in front of my husband, which I had littered with blinis topped with a bit of smoked salmon, a dollop of creme fraiche and then a feather of dill, watching nervously as my husband ate his first one. A smile appeared on his face and I knew he liked it! So did I! In just a few minutes, all the blinis were gone!
Ahhh! Satisfied with our savory snack, we decided to save the last quarter of the batter to make a blini pancake for tomorrow’s breakfast. It will be grand. This one hit it outta the park for us! I can’t imagine I would serve this to guests, since it really does require being “made to order” or eaten as its made, but for a quick snack or a more savory breakfast item? Heck yes! This is a recipe that will reappear on our table in the very near future!
French Fridays with Dorie is a virtual cooking group who is working their way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, one recipe at a time, posting our thoughts and experiences on Fridays. If you would like to join us, check out the site here and pick up a copy of the book! It’s a delicious hobby and we have a wonderful group! See you next Friday!