My Citizens, your sagacious and inveterate leader – the indulgent TFD Himself! – is currently enjoying the glorious gustatory delights found only in Mother Russia, especially in its capital city of Moscow!
While here, I am making several celebratory recipe postings to honor my time and the culinary glory of Russian cuisine – and what, I ask you, is more quintessentially Russian than buckwheat blini, served lavishly with caviar, smoked salmon and smetana, the unmatched Russian sour cream?
Sadly, smetana of Russian quality isn’t available in the U.S., but all the other needed ingredients are and few chefs do this recipe better justice than renowned Chef Gary Danko of San Francisco. The City by the Bay is where I live when not plotting culinary revolution in several of my worldwide secret lairs! I have enjoyed many magnificent meals at his restaurant and hope that you too may someday know the glory of his cuisine!
Gary Danko is an American chef who combines French, Mediterranean, and American styles into his cooking. He is best known for his eponymous restaurant in San Francisco, California.
Diners select from three, four or five prix-fixe menu courses. Danko’s signature dishes include roast Maine lobster with white corn, tarragon and chanterelles, pancetta wrapped frog legs with garlic purée, and roasted quail stuffed with mushrooms and foie gras.
Most dishes are served year-round, but ingredients are adjusted seasonally to emphasize local produce. Before it was banned in California, in late spring 2012, Danko’s seared foie gras was paired with Bing cherries, but in early fall, with roast figs.
His accolades are many, both local and international:
1995 James Beard Foundation – Best Chef-California
1999 Esquire Magazine – Best New Restaurant
1999 Mobil Travel Guide – First “Five Star” rating
2000 James Beard Foundation – Best New Restaurant
2000 San Francisco Magazine – Chef of the Year
2002 James Beard Foundation Award – Nominated Outstanding Chef of the Year
2002 Relais & Chateaux – Relais & Chateaux property
2007 Zagat Survey – Top Restaurant
2008 Michelin Guide – One Star Rating
This recipe, adapted from Gary Danko, is the best blini recipe I’ve ever tried: it incorporates whipped egg whites and whipped cream, and has several resting periods – all of which helps give these blini a lighter, more delicate texture. You can make the batter in the morning or a day ahead since it needs two fairly lengthy resting periods. The blini themselves are best served right after cooking.
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ tablespoon sugar
- ½ tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm milk, about 98°
- ½ cup buckwheat flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg, separated
- 2 tablespoons cold heavy cream
- ¼ cup clarified butter or 2 tablespoons clarified butter + 2 tablespoons canola, rice bran or vegetable oil
- Crème Fraîche
- Smoked salmon or smoked sturgeon
- Chives, cut into ½-inch pieces (Optional addition by TFD: also include a tiny amount of snipped fresh dill)
- Caviar (optional)- for TFD, however, it is MANDATORY! Use trout roe or salmon roe if you can’t afford sustainably-raised beluga, osetra or sevruga sturgeon caviar
- For the batter: Sift the all-purpose flour and sugar into a small bowl. Add the yeast, then ½ cup of the warm milk; whisk until smooth.
- Combine the buckwheat flour and salt in a medium-size bowl. Add the egg yolk and remaining milk; whisk until smooth.
- Cover both bowls with plastic wrap set aside at room temperature for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. After resting, pour the yeast mixture into the buckwheat mixture and whisk to combine.
- Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until soft peaks form; scrape it onto the top of the batter. Add heavy cream to the now-empty egg white bowl and whip it to soft peaks; scrape it onto the egg white and gently fold everything together.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour or so. Letting it rest longer – 2 to 6 hours – in a slightly cool place develops more flavor and the blini will also cook up crisper. The batter can rest up to 24 hours – it will develop a slight sourdough flavor. If the kitchen is warm, refrigerate the batter overnight, then bring to room temperature.
- To cook: Pour clarified butter or butter/oil mixture into a small non-stick skillet, just enough to form a thin film. Drop about ½ tablespoon of batter into the hot fat and spread to about 1 ½-2 inches in diameter, if necessary.
- Cook until golden brown (about 10 seconds); turn and cook the other side until golden brown and done at the center, about another 10 seconds. Remove to a paper towel to drain briefly, then serve hot with a dollop of Crème Fraîche, smoked salmon or smoked sturgeon, and 2 chive pieces (or do it as TFD does, with the addition of a small amount of snipped fresh dill!). For something extra special, dab with caviar.
- Wine pairing: Sparkling wine or Champagne – especially a Brut Rosé will be a terrific accompaniment.
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