Blini, baby pancakes, are usually made with buckwheat, but here we use cornmeal for texture and flavor. You can use white or yellow, whichever you prefer. Born in Russia, blini are the perfect vehicle for caviar; sturgeon are endangered in the Caspian Sea, so we prefer domestic caviar; Tsar Nicoulai is our favorite. But feel free to use more affordable salmon roe instead, or a mix of both types.
- Yield: 30 blini
- Difficulty: Easy
- Total: 20 mins
- Active: 20 mins
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup milk
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 2 cups crème fraîche
- 1 pound smoked salmon, thinly sliced and cut again into small pieces about the size of each pancake
- 3/4 cup osetra caviar or salmon roe
- chives, chervil, and/or dill to garnish
- Heat oven to 250°F.
- In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking soda, and salt and stir well to mix. Add egg and milk, and mix until smooth.
- Heat a heavy griddle or frying pan over medium heat until hot, then brush with oil. Using a spoon and working in small batches, drop tablespoons of batter into the pan. When bubbles form evenly on the top of the blini, turn (just once) and cook until golden.
- Transfer the first batch of cooked blini to a heatproof plate lined with paper towels and keep warm, covered, in the oven. Repeat with remaining batter.
- To serve, top each warm blini with 1 tablespoon crème fraîche, 1 small curl of salmon, 1 teaspoon caviar, and a pinch of herbs. Serve immediately.
Beverage pairing: Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve. You could find another wine besides Champagne to go with this dish, but why mess up a good thing? Because of the texture and assertive flavor of the cornmeal, though, the best plan is to choose a mature Champagne with some toast and yeast characteristics that match it. After that, let nature handle the rest: Little oily fish eggs, meet little refreshing citrus bubbles. It’s a perfect match.
Photograph courtesy of Synergee/E+/Getty Images.