Every good feast has to have a fish course. A few years back, we sprung the hinges on our wallet for some really good caviar for New Year’s Eve. We still had our Santa Fe casa then and were spending the holiday there. Some good friends flew out to join us for that New Year’s Eve celebration and we all decided we’d enjoy blinis with caviar as a part of the meal. We bundled up against the snowy cold and headed over to the Cookworks gourmet shop that used to be on Guadalupe Street where we knew we’d find something fabulous.
And we did. Granted, it set us back a pretty penny…or more like several pretty pennies, but it was worth every one of them. I’ve never enjoyed caviar more.
If you ever get the chance to enjoy a Christmas in Santa Fe, take it. It’s positively magical there: crisp cold air, bright stars in the clear night sky, the smell of pinon fires burning, pretty farolitos lining the rooftops all over town. But that’s another tale for another day…back to the fish story.
This year’s splurge, however, was the foie gras, so we decided to retain the blini theme, but topped them instead with a slice of good lox from wild caught salmon, a dollop of creme fraiche, and a sprinkling of tasty, if decidedly more pedestrian caviar.
Blinis are basically just little pancakes, therefore a touch on the carby side, unless you do a little adapting wizardry, particularly if you give in to temptation and eat too many of them. So I pulled out my Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything, flipped to his Fluffy Pancake recipe and promptly replaced half the flour in it with almond flour and the milk with cream to cut the carbs somewhat. I had the temptation part covered, since I planned to portion them out two to a person, with no extras to worry about.
The Bittman verison I adapted is a pretty standard pancake recipe: eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, touch of salt. All the usual suspects, meaning that any recipe would work for a blini. But the fluffiness in this one comes, as it often does in waffle recipes, from separating the eggs and beating the whites to soft peaks and folding them gently into the batter at the last moment; it lightens the batter and makes, just as the name says, Fluffy Pancakes. The technique is especially helpful when you’re substituting denser, fattier, heavier almond flour for the lighter, softer all purpose wheat flour.
Since all we were going to need was two small (about 2-inch) blinis for each of us, I only made half the recipe on the morning of the party. Like crepes, you can make the blinis ahead of time, cool them slightly on a rack, then put them between and under several thicknesses of paper towels on something oven proof, wrap them tightly with aluminum foil and tuck them into the refrigerator until the dinner gets going. When the time comes, you can reheat them, right in the foil packet, in a 200 degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or so and they’ll be perfect. They stay nice and moist in their packet and warm gently.
To save time between courses, I had portioned the lox into 16 little piles on a plate, covered it with plastic wrap, and popped it into the fridge earlier in the day. That way, when it came time for the fish course, I just had to take the warm blinis out of the oven, put two on each plate, top each one with a portion of lox, add a dollop of creme fraiche, and a bit of caviar and voila! Fish course.
Next on the New Year’s menu: the Cornish Hens.