Marinated Wild Mushrooms

Just like picking fruit and making preserves, gathering mushrooms and marinating them is a Russian classic. The weekend pastime harkens back to a time when communist citizens were free from the dictatorship of consumerism and social networks, and Muscovites could enjoy the simple comforts of their suburban datchas without spending hours in traffic jams and taking out half a dozen bank loans.

This recipe is loosely adapted from Anya von Bremzen’s Please to the Table. I like my marinated mushrooms with a relatively low level of acidity so I can still taste the mushrooms. The downside is that the brine probably isn’t suited for long-term preservation, so be sure to eat them all within a few days. Regular readers of this blog won’t be surprised to see me using wild mushrooms. Porcini work great, and can be coupled with other spring vegetables. Chanterelles are equally suitable, and it seems that they’re available year-round nowadays, most likely as imports from all corners of the world.

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The Russian Food Blog

Many of you have probably noticed by now that this is a Russian food blog. But it never hurts to state the obvious once in a while. And to drive my point home, I just bought russianfoodblog.com (note to Google: it spells Russian food blog).

So from now on, and until I get tired of spending my money on not-quite-random-yet-not-quite-necessary domain names, you can access all the contents of this blog using russianfoodblog.com. Like my About page: russianfoodblog.com/about/. Or my reviews of Russian restaurants: russianfoodblog.com/category/restaurants/russian-cuisine/.

Let’s go through the recent posts that truly make this blog a Russian food blog, the Russian food blog, the blog of the Russian food…

Russian food - Russian Cuisine - Russian blog - Russian food blog

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Salmon and Pork Belly Burger

Russian Cuisine - Salmon BurgerI recently adapted a recipe for Jarred Salmon In Olive Oil from a Russian cookbook titled Pro Okhotu I Rybalku [Of hunting and fishing]. Here’s another idea I yanked from this book: adding pork fat to fish to make burger patties. Although I’m using salmon today, you could choose almost any fish you like.

The rest of the recipe is my own invention: baked tomato halves for additional juiciness, a kind of bean ketchup (with a lot of olive oil to balance the beans’ dry mouthfeel), and potato buns. There will be a recipe coming for my homemade potato buns very soon, but in the meantime you’ll have to cope with the store-bought ones that don’t taste like potato (because they contain nearly as much food coloring as potato flour) and are pre-cut in a less than optimal fashion (see my picture above). On the side, whole fingerling potatoes are deep-fried exactly as for the perfect fries, and topped with fried parsley. The result isn’t quite as crispy as real fries because of the lower starch content of the fingerlings, but is still rather excellent.

ETA: The potato bun recipe is here!

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Jarred Salmon in Olive Oil

Spring is here, and despite the persisting snowfalls throughout New York State, the ice fishing season is coming to a close. I haven’t had much luck recently. No matter how hard I tried and how long I froze my butt (sometimes way after all the other fishermen had given up), I didn’t land anything. I’m starting to doubt whether some of the lakes I’ve been to actually contain fish at all. So I decided to have my small revenge and just buy some fresh salmon at the store.

For a change, here’s a recipe from the “let’s make a trivial dish with 3 ingredients and write about it” school of blogging. It’s inspired by something I found in a Russian cookbook called Pro Okhotu I Rybalku [Of hunting and fishing]. Not only does it come with very appetizing pictures, and cover most wild game and fish you’re likely to kill for food, but it offers a different take on preparing your catch. There are traditional Russian dishes of course, but also more creative recipes (such as partridges in chocolate sauce or pigeons with kumquats and couscous).

Russian Cuisine - Jarred Salmon

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Russian Birch Cream Liqueur

Whether you want to celebrate the last day of Maslenitsa, Saint Patrick’s Day with a Russian twist, or the coming birch sugar season, this is the drink for you. The Irish-cream-like mixture dilutes the intense flavor of birch syrup, helping to reveal its complexity. This might be my favorite way to consume the syrup, in fact!

Russian Birch Cream LiqueurI originally thought I could take inspiration from Bailey’s, the mother of all cream liqueurs. The main ingredients are well known and advertised, together with the nutrition facts, on their web site. Reproducing the same proportions of sugar (from the birch syrup), fat (from the dairy) and alcohol (from the vodka) should give a similar result, right? Well, not quite. It was a starting point, but the mixture came out way too fatty and boozy. It took me a few rounds to get the balance right, but the result is very enjoyable.

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Kremlin Menu Watch, Part 2

You may not be a man like Putin, but you can try to eat like him. Here are some excerpts from the news on his presidential feasts in the Kremlin and in other parts of the Empire.

ITAR-TASS 151: MOSCOW, RUSSIA. DECEMBER 2, 2007. President of Russia Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila dine at Siberian cuisine restaurant "Yermak" in Moscow's Krylatskoye district after voting in elections to the Fifth State Duma. (Photo ITAR-TASS / Dmitry Astakhov)

MOSCOW, RUSSIA. DECEMBER 2, 2007. President of Russia Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila dine at Siberian cuisine restaurant “Yermak” in Moscow’s Krylatskoye district after voting in elections to the Fifth State Duma. (Photo ITAR-TASS / Dmitry Astakhov)

You may have missed Part 1 of my Kremlin Menu Watch: it’s right here. Since that original post, I realized that keeping track of Vlad’s culinary adventures could be a source of inspiration for my own recipes, and there seems to be enough new material for an update.

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“Baku Palace” King Crab Salad

This recipe is inspired by the crab salad I ate at Baku Palace in Sheepshead Bay a few weeks ago (my restaurant review will come soon, but for now the place is still without power since Hurricane Sandy). The original recipe was terribly deceptive, as the dish, priced at $20 for two people, consisted of julienned cucumber, ground walnut, and… surimi.

So, in order to get rid of the feeling of being cheated, I figured I’d do my own version at home, for about the same price but with real king crab. I added a couple of elements to the recipe and I’m serving it on toasted bread, but the spirit remains the same. Compared to many other posts on my blog, this is surprisingly quick and easy to make. And still delicious!

Russian Cuisine - King Crab Salad

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Wild Boar and Porcini Pirozhki

Russian Cuisine - Wild Boar Pirozhki

Pirozhki are Russian buns, usually individual-sized and baked. As with varenyky, you can fill them with pretty much anything you want — in fact, you could even use the exact same fillings for pirozhki and varenyky. It’s not rare, however, to find more diverse recipes, some of then even in classic French cookbooks. Escoffier’s Guide Culinaire, for example, counts a dozen variations called piroguis (not to be confused with Polish pierogi), and the Larousse Gastronomique has a few similar pirojkis, many of which take some serious culinary license with the real deal.

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Leg of Venison in Moscovite Sauce with Butternut Squash Varenyky

This recipe will probably remind you of my Venison Goulash and Potato Varenyky. And true, the dish follows the same structure — but with a radically different flavor profile:

  • The leg of venison, from the deer I killed last fall, is still here. I see no reason to change the marinade either, unless you want to replace the oxtail with venison bones.
  • The cooking time is somewhat different: I used a slightly hotter oven for a shorter duration. Both results were very tender and I’d really have to compare them side by side to pick my favorite (which I didn’t do, sorry). The challenge is that while maximum tenderness requires longer cooking times, maximum juiciness demands the opposite. Add in all the other elements of your recipe, and you get a problem with no clear solution. With the method I’m using here, and considering the fact that there are fewer elements to prepare than in my previous goulash, the recipe is slightly more approachable (read: it will take 3 days instead of 4).
  • The Moscovite sauce is something you would know by heart, had you studied your Escoffier like any self-respecting cook before the advent of nouvelle cuisine. This rather obscure sauce is a modified sauce poivrade particularly suited to accompany venison. I made some changes to streamline the preparation with the rest of this recipe. I haven’t found any good explanation that connects the ingredients to Moscow (neither Malaga nor the golden raisins scream Russia to me), but the name of the sauce itself more than justifies the presence of this post on my blog, right? RIGHT? Speaking of Malaga, it’s not always easy to find, so you can use Marsala instead — I guarantee you the result will be just as Muscovite :)
  • This time, the varenyky are filled with a butternut squash mixture. The filling is loosely inspired by the pumpkin manty I’ve eaten in Uzbekistan, but I figured the traditional manty shape would be too fragile for mixing the dumplings with the rest of the dish.

Russian Cuisine - Leg of Venison in Moscovite Sauce with Pumpkin Varenyky

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This Is A Russian Food Blog

Only today did I realize that if you google “russian food blog”, Food Perestroika doesn’t appear in the first 10 pages (I didn’t look beyond that). Moreover, all of the blogs on the first result page, though sometimes quite interesting, only post a handful of articles a year, when they haven’t stopped all together. Don’t I deserve my 15 minutes of fame, too?

Sure, neither my blog title nor my tagline explicitly use the words “Russian”, “food” or “blog”. It’s also true that this is not only a Russian food blog, in that I write many posts that talk about other topics (such as food-serving establishments and travel) and other countries (such as Hungary, Ukraine, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, all of which are only so far from Russia). I guess I’m being too subtle for the world’s foremost search engine, and I apologize.

So Mr Google, please take note. I’m going to spell it out for you: this is a Russian food blog.

It is a blog that talks about Russian food. A food blog, with an emphasis on Russia. A blog with posts on Russia and food, or if you prefer, on food and Russia. A blog that looks at Russia through the prism of food. Russian food, aka the food of the Russia, is discussed here, using blogging as a medium. Russian. Food. Blog.

And if this is not enough, here are some posts to convince you: