2 Aug 2016
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.
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.
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
2 Tbsp ikura
2 Tbsp creme fraiche
1 tsp lemon juice
Fresh dill, for garnish
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.
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
2 tsp creme fraiche
1 tsp lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 stalks asparagus
4-5 shimeji mushrooms
Micro greens, for garnish
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.
1 salmon fillet
3-5 oyster mushrooms
Micro greens, for garnish
1 leek, white part only
1 Tbsp mayo (see notes)