Buckwheat Blini with Trout and Chanterelles, Cabbage Sauce and Honey-Glazed Turnips

Posted by Florian in Russian Food, Seafood, tagged with , , , , , , ,

Steelhead season on the Salmon River was rather slow this year. A little bit like deer season, come to think of it, a consequence of two consecutive cold winters. Considering that I grouped my hunting and fishing outings into a single trip around Thanksgiving, it made for an uneventful and often frustrating ten days (except for the duck hunt, which I’m saving for another post). Still, I did end up catching a small brown trout, so I don’t complain too much.

I’m not entirely sure how today’s recipe came to fruition. I did take some inspiration from Vladimir Sorokin’s Day of the Oprichnik, which I was reading around the time I caught the trout. This isn’t exactly a cookbook; it’s a dystopian novel taking place in Russia’s near future. But the author sits his characters at the dinner table on a few occasions, and lists a good number of dishes in the process. What especially caught my attention for some reason is the oprichnik’s breakfast. When the main character wakes up, his servant is “carrying a traditional hangover assortment: a glass of white kvass, a jigger of vodka, a half-cup of marinated cabbage juice.” Then later, at the breakfast table, another domestic “serves cheese pancakes, steamed turnips in honey, and cranberry kissel”. Well, put all that into a glass, add a nice brown trout, cover, shake well, and apparently you get buckwheat blini with trout and chanterelles, cabbage sauce, and honey-glazed turnips. Vodka and kvass to be poured on the side.

Salmon River Steelhead
Last year’s steelhead. No such luck for me this year 🙁

The buckwheat blini are quite interesting on their own. With buckwheat and blini each being so emblematic of Russian cuisine, it feels natural to put the two together. But while there are buckwheat blini in Russia, this isn’t something you see that often nowadays. On one hand, read your favorite authoritative Russian cookbook (you must have one, don’t you?) and you’ll see that the original traditional blini were made with buckwheat and yeast, with either water or milk. On the other, go to any store or restaurant in Russia today, and the blini you’ll see will most likely be very pale and thin, made with wheat flour and no yeast. This is because, some time during the past century, convenience took over. Yeast was replaced by baking soda, an import from the West, to save time on leavening. Wheat flour became the norm, maybe because its gluten content makes the pancakes more pliable. The original stuff was relegated to dusty Russian restaurants abroad, where dishes were named after forgotten tsars and topped with caviar just because.

But there’s another place where buckwheat pancakes were and still remain popular: Brittany. There, buckwheat galettes are made with just buckwheat flour, water, and salt. They’re then filled with ham, cheese, and eggs (for the galette complète), or whatever else you fancy — classics include sausages, smoked fish, bacon, goat cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, or even the infamous andouille, a smoked chitterlings sausage. The pancakes are very thin, since the recipe doesn’t call for yeast, milk, or egg, so they too are different from the original Russian blini. In case of irreconcilable cognitive dissonance, just fall back on my previous blini recipe. Otherwise, the buckwheat recipe below is worth trying. It only departs from the Breton canon in a couple of ways: I use an egg, and slightly less water.

Buckwheat Blini with Trout, Cabbage Sauce and Honey-Glazed Turnips

Buckwheat blini
Yields about 20 blini

330 g buckwheat flour
10 g salt
55 g (about 1) egg
800 g cold water
about 25 g butter

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, mix the buckwheat flour and salt on low speed. Add the egg and half of the water, and mix on medium speed until homogenous. Repeat with the rest of the water. To aerate the batter, whisk another 4 minutes on medium speed, and 2 minutes on high.
  • Heat a 20 cm diameter non-stick pan over medium heat, waiting until it’s really hot.
  • Melt and spread a little bit of butter in the pan. Pour one ladle of batter into the pan (one full 60 ml ladle should yield one blini). Swirl to cover the bottom completely, without lifting the pan too high, so that it remains as hot as possible. If you want to do it like a pro, use an offset spatula to spread the batter — this way you don’t have to lift the pan at all and you can spread the batter as thin as you want. Keeping the pan hot is important to get the nice little holes characteristic of the galettes from Brittany, but for an Eastern Europe recipe I guess they’re not really essential, so it’s up to you!
  • Cook the blini like you would any thin pancake. Once the batter is firm enough, flip, and cook about 30 seconds on the other side before removing from the pan and reserving on a plate. Spray a little bit of water on the edges if they look dry.
  • Repeat until you run out of batter. Don’t hesitate to whisk the batter for a few seconds if the air bubbles have disappeared.
  • Cover the blini with plastic wrap, and reserve.

Buckwheat Blini

Sautéed chanterelles
Yields 4 servings

180 g rinsed and cleaned chanterelle mushrooms
50 g peeled shallots, brunoise
20 g butter
salt
black pepper, ground
2.5 g Italian parsley, chopped

  • Cut the chanterelles into halves or quarters, depending on their size.
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, sauté the shallots in the butter until translucent. Add the chanterelles and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the chanterelles are tender, and any liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Let cool.
  • Mix in the parsley, and reserve.

Cabbage sauce
Yields 4 servings

160 g Savoy cabbage, green part only, ribs removed
40 g butter
salt
black pepper, ground
160 g milk
2 g lemon juice

  • Thinly slice the cabbage.
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, sauté the cabbage in the butter for a couple minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper, add the milk, then cover, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, until tender.
  • Transfer to a blender, add the lemon juice, and process until smooth. Reserve.

Honey-glazed turnips
Yields 4 servings

175 g small peeled turnips, quartered
salt
20 g butter
20 g honey
15 g water

  • Blanch the turnips in salted boiling water, keeping them slightly undercooked. Drain.
  • In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the butter, honey, and water. Cook for a minute, then add the turnips and cook for a couple minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and reserve.

Buckwheat Blini with Trout, Cabbage Sauce and Honey-Glazed Turnips

Sous-vide trout
Yields 4 servings

300 g cold water
15 g salt
12 g sugar
250 g skinned and cleaned trout fillets, cut into 4
30 g butter, cut into 4 slices

  • Pour the water, salt, and sugar into a blender, and process until dissolved.
  • Cut the trout fillets into 4 equal portions, then place in a dish, cover with the brine, and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
  • Drain the fish, and pat dry with paper towels. Place the portions in sous-vide pouches (use anywhere between 1 and 4 pouches), each with one slice of butter, and vacuum-seal. Cook the trout pouches in a 115 F water bath for 25 minutes. Reserve.

Assembly
Yields 4 servings

cabbage sauce
honey-glazed turnips
sous-vide trout
4 buckwheat blini
sautéed chanterelles
about 20 g butter
chopped parsley
about 100 g tvorog or sour cream (optional)

  • Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat, and wait until hot.
  • Gently reheat the cabbage sauce and honey-glazed turnips.
  • Take the trout out of the sous-vide pouches, and drain on paper towels.
  • Melt and spread a little bit of butter in the pan. Place a blini in the pan, add a piece of trout in the center, and top with some chanterelles. Fold the edges of the blini over the filling so it is completely covered.
  • When the blini starts browning, flip with a spatula, and cook on the other side for 30 seconds or so. Remove from the heat, and cut the blini in half diagonally.
  • Spoon some cabbage sauce in the center of a plate. Arrange the two halves of the blini on top, garnish with a few turnip pieces, and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Optionally, crown with a generous dollop of tvorog or sour cream.
  • Serve and repeat with more blini.

Buckwheat Blini