Thursday, October 31, 2013

Smoked Salmon Blini with Caviar, Crème Fraîche & Dill

Elegant, sophisticated and completely indulgent, blini topped with smoked salmon, crème fraîche and caviar has to be one of the ultimate appetizers. A staple of traditional Russian cuisine, blini were essential to the celebration of Maslenitsa, a thousand year-old Slavic festival inherited from a pagan culture that worshipped the Sun god Yarylo, who banished the winter. Round, golden and warm, Blini symbolized the sun, making them the perfect dish to welcome springtime. This tradition was adopted by the Orthodox church and is carried on to the present day with the feast of Shrovetide, also known as Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day or Mardi Gras, which is french for 'Fat Tuesday', referring to the practice of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting that marked the onset of Lent. What better way to celebrate any special occasion than with these decadent Smoked Salmon Blini with Caviar, Crème Fraîche & Dill, a sumptuous Halloween-hued treat from 'Russia with love'.

Smoked Salmon Blini with Caviar, Crème Fraîche & Dill
Makes about 40 canapés

For the blini: 
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp crème fraîche
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 to 2 tbsp whole milk
salt & white pepper

For the garnish:
3 oz of black caviar or salmon roe
1 lb of smoked salmon
1/2 cup crème fraîche
Fresh dill, for garnish

To make the blini, bring the potatoes to a boil in a pot of salted water and simmer until cooked. Drain the potatoes and while they're still hot, press through a potato ricer. Place the potatoes in a mixing bowl and using a fork, quickly work in the flour, then add the crème fraîche and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time while mixing. Season with salt and white pepper. The batter should resemble a thick pancake-like batter.

Preheat a nonstick pan over medium-high and allow it to heat up thoroughly. Spoon 2 teaspoons of the batter into the hot pan, about the size of a 'loonie one dollar coin', and cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook one more minute. Remove to a baking sheet and keep warm in a low oven while you cook the remaining blini.

To serve, top each blini with a folded sliver of smoked salmon, a dollop of crème fraîche and a teaspoon of caviar. Garnish with a sprig of dill and serve immediately. Heaven!

COOK'S NOTE: Making blini can be speeded up by using leftover mashed potatoes!

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