We love having dinner parties, and when it is the birthday of someone we love, we go all out. One of our favorite special dinner hors’d oeuvres is potato blini from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook. They are easy to make, look sophisticated, and taste delicate and light. They can also be used as a vehicle for many different toppings, although we’ve found that due to their subtle taste and texture, anything that is too bold overpowers. The blini are nice with a pureed vegetable topping such as eggplant or roasted bell peppers, but one of our all time favorites is a simple salmon tartare.
To make the blinis, you will need one special tool – the chinois. It is basically a very fine metal strainer that usually comes with a wooden pestle to help push the food through. We’ve found this one from Amazon.com to be good. Having a chinois is essential for this recipe because it accounts for the delicate texture of the blinis.
Yukon Gold Potato Blini with Salmon Tartarte
For the Potato Blini:
(Makes 3 dozen small blini)
1 Pound Yukon Gold Potatoes (peeled and cut into fourths)
2 Tablespoons flour
2-3 Tablespoons crème fraiche at room temperature
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
Fill a pot with cold water, add the potatoes, salt and allow to boil until a knife pierces the potatoes easily.
Immediately put the potatoes through the chinois without allowing to cool.
Using a hand whisk add the flour, crème fraiche, and eggs one at a time. Add salt and pepper to taste.
The batter should be somewhat runnier than pancake batter.
Cook the blini on a non-stick griddle or skillet.
The most challenging aspect of making blini is flipping them because the batter is light and tends to be sticky. It is sometimes hard to flip these little guys without breaking them. I’ve found it easiest to use a wooden chopstick, lifting the blini first and then sliding the spatula under to flip it. The blini is ready to flip when the surface looks set.
For the Salmon Tartare
6 oz. fresh, fatty salmon, preferably from the belly with the skin and bones removed
1 small finely diced shallot
Juice of ½ lemon
1 Tablespoon chopped chives
Salt and pepper to taste
To make raw fish at home, you have to buy from a source you trust. I would never recommend buying fish to serve raw from a local supermarket unless you personally know someone in the fish department. In the Bay Area, we are lucky to have Tokyo Fish Market where the fish is always excellent. Whenever you do serve raw fish it is important to note that lemon and lime juice, as well garlic, or onions of any kind are all disinfectants, which is why they often accompany raw fish dishes such as Ceviché or tartare. Salt is a natural preservative and helps cure raw fish so once you salt the tartare, it is quite safe to leave in the fridge for a day or two.
To make the tartare, chop the salmon by hand with a sharp knife until it is finely minced. Do not use a food processor because your result will be pulp.
Add the shallots, lemon juice, chives and salt and pepper.
A few chive tips for garnish
Crème fraiche for garnish
Arrange blini on a large plate and add one tablespoon of salmon tartare to each.
Garnish with a dollop of crème fraiche and a chive tip.
Side note: These are also delicious cooked for 5 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
(photos by Vicky and Liza)