Blini, Scallops, Salmon

Like other posts on five twenty six, this is actually a trio of three courses made on a free Saturday, not a single unholy combination of blini (light Russian pancakes) topped with scallops and salmon.

The dishes are (click to scroll to recipe):

Probably thanks to all the effort of cooking, even though I made and ate more blini then pictured, I actually found myself still slightly hungry at the end of the night. Were I to repeat this lineup again, I would probably add another course, maybe a salad or something else easy. Good lord.

Buckwheat blini with creme fraiche, ikura, dill

Blini are thin, light pancakes often topped with sour cream (or creme fraiche) and caviar. In this preparation I'm using ikura, the Japanese term for large salmon roe, and leftover creme fraiche from making a topping for gravlax crostini (another post). The ikura is actually leftover from this five twenty six dish, which I had kept frozen, and defrosted in the fridge an hour or so beforehand; they held up remarkably well.

I'm using the Epicurious recipe for the blini batter. You'll have extra batter - I made more blini than pictured, probably about 7 or 8 (extremely small) in total for serving just myself, and had leftover batter to make pancakes the next morning. You can easily scale out the toppings to serve more people.

Ikura continues to surprise me - eaten alone, they're a very fishy, salty pop, and I worry they'll be overpowering. However taken with the creme fraiche here it makes for a delightful, moderate, savory bite. Like all caviar, avoid using metal utensils when working with the ikura if possible to avoid imparting negative flavors. I use my hands or wooden chopsticks.

Ingredients

For the batter:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup buckwheat flour

4 tsp sugar

1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 cup milk

3 Tbsp butter

2 large eggs

For the toppings:

2 Tbsp ikura

2 Tbsp creme fraiche

1 tsp lemon juice

Fresh dill, for garnish

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the AP flour, buckwheat flour, sugar, yeast, and kosher salt.
  2. Put the milk and butter into a small pot, and heat to 110F.
  3. Pour the milk/butter mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk to combine.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and rest for 1 1/2 hours.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs together. Whisk the batter after uncovering, then whisk in the eggs.
  6. Cover and chill batter for 20 minutes.
  7. Prep the creme fraiche: in a small bowl, combine the creme fraiche and lemon juice; season with salt.
  8. Melt butter in a nonstick skillet on medium heat. Working in batches, ladle dollops of batter about 2-3 inches in diameter around the pan (or use a squeeze bottle), and cook until lightly browned on each side.
  9. Plate the blini, and top each with a dollop of the seasoned creme fraiche, ikura, and a sprig of dill. I garnished my plate with a micro green (an ingredient in the next dish) to try and be fancy, but this is totally optional and doesn't really do anything for flavor.

Scallops over pea puree, shimeji mushrooms, asparagus tips

I'm very proud of myself - this dish was based on a photo found on Pinterest, and not an actual recipe. (I later learned the pin links to a recipe, but that spoils the fun). I love the idea of scallops on a swoosh of perfectly smooth pea puree, and the halved asparagus is an instant elegance boost in my book. I passed some shimeji mushrooms in the SF Ferry Building, and instantly wanted to serve them in the dish. The result is slightly improvised but very tasty.

I'm still very new to making sauces and purees. So far, I've had trouble getting the perfectly smooth yet thick texture I'm envisioning, especially when working with peas. After blending and straining the peas here, I was basically left with pea water, which I tried to thicken with a cornstarch slurry (equal parts cornstarch + water). A note on slurries - ALWAYS dissolve the cornstarch in water before adding to a sauce! I got lazy and dumped the last 1/2 Tbsp in the puree directly. Extreme mistake - the cornstarch immediately forms clumps that are impossible to break up. Lesson learned.

I was going to try soaking the shimeji in some concentrated dashi broth after sauteeing them, but I got caught up and completely forgot to. Regardless, the dish has tons of flavor and richness, and the vegetables don't really need much done to them to amp up their flavors. I didn't have any peas leftover for garnish, but that would have been a nice touch, too.

Ingredients

For the pea puree:

1 1/2 cup frozen peas

2 tsp creme fraiche

1 tsp lemon juice

1 clove of garlic, sliced

1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch

For the rest of the dish:

3 scallops

2 stalks asparagus

4-5 shimeji mushrooms

Micro greens, for garnish

Directions

  1. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil and blanch the peas for 30 seconds.
  2. Drain the peas and add to a blender, along with the creme fraiche, lemon juice, garlic, and salt/pepper.
  3. Blend thoroughly for a minute, then strain and add to a small pot on low heat.
  4. Dissolve the cornstarch in equal amount water (stir thoroughly!), and mix into the puree. Stir well and let thicken, 3-5 minutes.
  5. Remove the woody stalks from the asparagus, and lightly pat the scallops dry on paper towels.
  6. Melt a knob of butter in a skillet on medium-high heat, and add the asparagus. Cook until browned and slightly tender, 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. As the asparagus nears completion, add more fat to the pan if necessary (oil/butter), and add in the shimeji mushrooms. Cook until heated through and slightly browned and heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Remove the veg from the pan when done, and add more fat to the pan if necessary.
  9. Season the scallops with salt and pepper, and sear in the pan until browned and slightly crispy on each side, about 2 minutes a side. Don't forget to sear the edges for a minute or so.
  10. Rest the scallops after cooking on a paper towel for 30 seconds. This is optional, but I forgot to do this and some juice leaked on the plate, which is tasty, but interferes with the pretty plating if you care about that sort of thing.
  11. To plate, put a spoonful of the pea puree on the plate and smush with the back of the spoon in a rapid motion to create the curved teardrop shape. Place the scallops along the curve, then slice the asparagus in half and drape the halves across ever so artfully. Finally lay down the shimeji mushrooms and garnish with micro greens.

Salmon, oyster mushroom, charred shallot, zucchini ribbons, leek ash mayo

This is another recipe-less dish based on a dish originally found on Pinterest, albeit significantly pared down; I don't have access to the ingredients, equipment, or time to make yuzu foam. However, the leek ash mayo intrigued me, and I was able to find good oyster mushrooms in the Ferry Building, along with the shimeji from the previous course.

The zucchini ribbons were unexpectedly my favorite part of this dish - it's a beautiful presentation, and super easy to do with nothing but a vegetable peeler. I ended up using the technique to later make a zucchini ribbon salad, but that's another post.

A note on the leek ash mayo. It's exactly what it sounds like: leek burnt to a crisp, then turned into a powder and added to mayo to give it a smoky flavor. I think, at least; the inspiration photo did not include a recipe. I was aiming for the luscious black dots; instead I ended up with sort of a gray speckled unappealing-looking mixture that nonetheless tasted good. I used only half the leek at the time, but would probably use the entire thing next time to get more ash; even still I'm not sure the mayo would come out anything besides a shade of grey. I need to iterate on this recipe, but the idea is good. I don't have a piping bag and couldn't really get the mayo into a squeeze bottle, so I used the trusty 'ziploc bag with the corner cut off' to pipe the dots of mayo onto the plate.

As far as I know, this style of plating is called negative space plating, and is often characterized by 'motion', plating in an arc or line, in an artful, distressed, random-looking manner. Of course, it's anything but, meticulously placed, and shockingly difficult to do when staring at a blank plate. This dish and the scallops is the first time I've tried anything close to it, and I have lots of practice ahead of me.

Ingredients

1 salmon fillet

3-5 oyster mushrooms

1 shallot

1 zucchini

Micro greens, for garnish

1 leek, white part only

1 Tbsp mayo (see notes)

Directions

  1. Make the leek ash first - preheat your oven to 450F. Cut the leek in half, and roast until burnt to a crisp, 40-60 minutes. Break off the crispy outer layers and crush/grind into a fine powder, discarding the inner layers if not crispy. Set the ash aside.
  2. Set your oven to 375F.
  3. Season the salmon with salt and pepper, and roast in oven until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.
  4. Prep the rest of your mise en place. To make the zucchini ribbons: using a vegetable peeler, remove the thin tougher outer skin. Then make ribbons by peeling straight downwards in a single motion, stopping once you reach the inner seeds. Season the ribbons with salt and pepper and set aside.
  5. Peel the shallot, then separate the layers and cut in half.
  6. Once the salmon is close to its final temperature, heat a small amount of oil or butter in a skillet, and char the shallot pieces until the edges are blackened.
  7. Saute the oyster mushrooms 3-5 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.
  8. Whisk the leek ash into the mayo, and season with salt and pepper. In the interest of time, I used prepared mayo (sue me!), but if you're so inclined you can easily make your own by making an emulsion of oil and eggs, as done in this five twenty six dish.
  9. To plate: plate the salmon on one edge of the plate, then place the oyster mushrooms around making an arc shape. Then place the charred shallots, and the zucchini ribbons, rolled into little bundles. Pipe on dollops of the leek ash mayo, and finally garnish with micro greens.

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