blinis & sauce

The other day I tried two recipes that were new to me: potato blinis with tomato confit and crispy dried ham and salmon & a basil sauce.

Blinis always seemed a fancy way to start a dinner. When I saw the recipe in the French Laundry cookbook, I thought, hey, that's not that hard. I thought they were hard?!
Little did I know that this wasn't an original blini recipe! Then again, a lot of things seem to go about as a blini. According to Larousse they're Russian and commonly served as an appetizer with smoked fish or caviar.  Made from a yeasted batter with buckwheat. Wiki explains a blini more as an generic term for different types of pancakes. Which can have the addition of apple or potato, can be served with or without a filling and can be served either sweet or savoury. But their common ground is the addition of a leavening agent (which normal pancakes lack). I will have to try my hands on the most original-traditional seeming Russian version some other time!

I prepared the salmon dish mainly for the sauce, as unhealthy as it may be, I love sauce! They can elevate a dish from a weekday dinner to a weekend feast. But I don't know a lot about sauces. I've never ever even made a bechamel or hollandaise. So as part of learning more about the techniques and possibilities of sauces I started with this easy-peasy recipe.

Music to listen to while cooking:
Medicine chest - Nostalgia 77 (Spotify)

Potato blini (makes +- 25)
3/4 medium sized potatoes (recipe calls for Yukon Gold, I used Nicola)
2/3 tablespoons of creme fraiche
2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
2 medium eggs
1 medium egg yolk
salt and pepper

1. Boil the potatoes until soft and thoroughly cooked.
2. Peel potatoes while their still warm, and press them through a sieve/tamis, whatever you've got in your kitchen. 
3. Weigh 250 g of the potato mash, that's all you need.
4. Whisk in the flour.
5. Whisk in the creme fraiche.
6. Add the first of the eggs, beat until smooth, then add the second one, again whisk until smooth, and lastly the egg yolk. 

The batter should be quite thick, but liquid. If it's too thick you can add a bit more creme fraiche. 

7. Season with salt & pepper. 
8. Heat a pan to a medium-low heat. Add a tiny bit of butter. 
9. Spoon your batter in the pan. I had about 3/4 tablespoon for each blini, but it depends on whichever size you prefer. 
10. Bake for about 1.5/2 minutes on the one side, and a little less on the second side. Basically bake em till their brown, I most certainly didn't time myself while doing this :P. 

The recipe says: serve them as soon as possible. But they turned out fine and tasty when I reheated them a few hours later for about 5 min on 200C.

Tomato confit (enough for the blinis)
8 tomatoes (medium sized, type is up to you, I have used different types works fine every time)
Olive oil
Sprigs of thyme (could use dried thyme, fresh works a bit better)
Salt and pepper

1. Put the kettle on, or boil water in whichever way you find easiest.
2. Preheat the oven to 125C. 
3. Cut a shallow  'X'  on the bottom of the tomatoes.
4.Pour the boiling water over the tomatoes, and let them sit for a few seconds: until the skin becomes loose.
5. Put the tomatoes in a bowl of cold water. 
6.Peel the tomatoes and cut them in quarters, discard the seed and juice. 
7. Get aluminum foil and cover an oven tray, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread evenly.
8. Put the tomato petals on the tray, sprinkle again with olive oil, salt and pepper. Top with the thyme. 
9. Slow roast them for about 1.5/2 hours.

The tomatoes are done when they seem dried out, but they should still have a bit of liquid. You can chop them up, or leave them as petals. Store in the fridge until you need them. 

This recipe is pretty amazing, even when tomatoes are out of season they get a juicy rich flavour. 

To finish

Chop the tomato confit roughly, check seasoning. A teaspoon of the confit on each blini, top with roasted ham and chopped basil leaves. 

Blinis are really quite versatile, I can imagine it would taste good with a lot of different toppings, ranging from smoked fishy goodness to grilled vegetables to something sweet and fruity. But also the blini itself can be changed around a lot, I'm curious whether this recipe would work when I use sweet potato rather than normal potato. Maybe add some Middle-Eastern herbs and spices into that mix?

Oh and one thing I think would be a very good idea, baking the blinis in a poffertjespan. To get a more even and good looking result. Don't you think?

Salmon and basil sauce (serves 4)
Salmon fillets
Salt & pepper
Lemon juice

Two shallots
15 basil leaves (chopped in thin strips)
Three tablespoons of Noilly Prat
125 ml fish stock
Three tablespoons of butter
125 ml creme fraiche

Sides (suggestions)
Sautéed spinach
Roast potatoes
Grilled vegetables (carrots, courgette, aubergine)
Mash (sweet potato?)

1. Sweat the shallots in a tablespoon of butter on a medium heat until softened and shiny.
2. Add the chopped basil
3. Add the Noilly Prat and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
4. Add the fish stock and reduce by half.
5. Add the creme fraiche, stir it through, and increase the heat gently, almost reaching the boiling stage.
6. Add the butter cubes and stir them through slowly.
7. Taste it, does it need salt or pepper? Add a frew drops of lemon juice to freshen it up and keep warm.

Cook - grill - poach your salmon, whatever feels good,  and don't forget the greens!

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