Tokaji-Cured Lake Trout and Mozzarella-Potato Pancakes

About two years ago, I posted a recipe for vodka-cured lake trout. Since I once again find myself with a profusion of trout — this time from Lake Ontario — I wanted to try a different kind of alcohol cure. (Incidentally, it’s quite interesting to compare the bright orange color of the Ontario fish to the pale pink-beige shade of the trout from Keuka Lake.)

Unlike the vodka cure, Hungarian Tokaji wine brings some subtle fruity notes to the fish. I’m not using just any Tokaji table wine, but an Aszú 4 puttonyos to get the right amount of sugar. However, I highly doubt that anyone would taste the result and exclaim, “Wow, this trout really tastes like Tokaji!” So to make this more than a gimmick, I serve it with small cubes of Tokaji jelly — and wow, these cubes really taste like Tokaji!

Eastern European Cuisine - Tokaji-Cured Lake Trout and Mozzarella-Potato Pancakes

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Latvian Hare Trio, Part 2: Leg Confit, Potato Pancakes, Sauerkraut

After last week’s hare loin, this post features the hare legs with another group of typical Latvian winter flavors: potato, sauerkraut, and animal fat. The recipe is pretty short, because most of the work has been done during the hare preparation.

The only non-trivial element left is the potato pancakes. I’ve already talked about deruny here, but I’m taking a different approach today, simply slicing the potatoes and relying on the starch and salt to bind them all together.

Finally, if you want to make the dish a little bit healthier but still recognizably Latvian, you could prepare a wine reduction to drizzle on the meat, instead of the fat!

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Pressed King Crab, Bok Choy and Mint

This dish is inspired by a recipe from an article on Georges Blanc in the Spring 2010 issue of Culinaire Saisonnier. This is a fairly simple preparation that emphasizes the flavor of king crab, one of my favorite ingredients. I recommend serving it with pancakes (pick a recipe from this post). Or if you’re in the mood for a more adventurous pairing, try it with a veal carpaccio, or a similarly-shaped veal tartare (maybe an adaptation of my Veal Dubrovnik) .

Although live king crabs are pretty expensive and hard to find, pre-cooked, frozen legs are usually of very good quality. Don’t discard the crab cooking liquid that runs when you thaw and shell the legs! It’s very tasty! It can be used in this recipe.

Yields 4 servings and leftover

1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp mustard
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp piment d’espelette
5 oz light olive oil
5 oz canola oil

  • Mix the lime juice, mustard, egg yolk, and piment d’espelette in a bowl. Pour the olive and canola oils in a thin stream while constantly whisking. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Yields 4 servings

1 1/4 oz bok choy leaves
2 oz  crab cooking liquid, or water with 10% salt
1/4 tsp gelatin
10 oz king crab flesh
10 mint leaves, chiffonade
5 oz mayonnaise
1 radish
1 dash olive oil
black pepper, ground

  • Cook the bok choy leaves in boiling water until soft, then drain and squeeze out as much water as possible. Heat the crab liquid (or salted water) and gelatin in the microwave until steaming, then transfer to a blender and process with the bok choy. Refrigerate until almost set.
  • In a bowl, mix the crab flesh, mint, and bok choy purée, then fold in the mayonnaise. You’ll notice the whole mixture does not use salt (unless you don’t have crab liquid): usually, cooked king crab is already salted. Fill 4 ring molds of 2 1/2″ diameter with the mixture, place weights on top and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  • Thinly slice the radish with a mandoline or a peeler, and toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. On each plate, unmold one pressed crab cylinder and decorate with a few slices of radish on top.

Deruny, Ukrainian Potato Pancakes

Deruny are simple Ukrainian potato pancakes, also known as draniki in Russia and Belarus. Traditionally, potatoes are coarsely grated into a mixture of egg and flour, and the pancakes are served with sour cream. Onions can also be added in the batter or cooked and served on top. My version is slightly different — the milk I am adding produces a softer result — for a simple reason: until recently, I had never bothered looking for deruny in a cookbook, and just made up my own!

This is meant to be a quick recipe, and the resulting pancakes are more rustic than the potato blini I made here. Even the proportions are kept simple, so you can easily memorize them if you often make deruny on the go!

Yields about 10 pancakes

2 oz flour
2 eggs
black pepper, ground
2 oz milk
16 oz peeled Yukon Gold potatoes

  • Place the flour, eggs, salt, pepper and milk in a bowl, and mix with a whisk until smooth. Let rest for a few minutes.
  • Grate the potatoes into the bowl and mix.
  • Heat a a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Melt a small piece of butter, then ladle in some batter. Cook until golden brown on both sides, transfer to an oven-proof dish and top with another small piece of butter. Repeat until you run out of batter.
  • Cover with foil and bake in 350 F oven for 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Blini and Oladi, Russian Pancakes

There are literally hundreds of Russian pancake recipes. The Bolshaya Kniga Domashney Kukhni by Svetlana and Lidia Lagutina alone counts more than 70! These recipes distinguish themselves by the type of flour or starch used (wheat, buckwheat, rye, semolina, potato), the raising agents or aerators present in the batter (yeast, baking soda, beaten egg whites, yogurt), and their use (plain with toppings, stuffed, or stacked with filling to make a cake). The thickness is also of particular importance in the Russian taxonomy: blini are alway thin, whereas thick pancakes are called oladi.

Here are four of my recipes, that I make regularly:

  • The original blini are similar to French crêpes, if only a bit thicker. This is the kind that you will be served 99% of the time in Russia. There are even cafés dedicated to them, the blinochnayas. They can be paired with anything you can think of: ground meat, cheese, smoked fish, fish roe, sour cream, jam, honey…
  • The thick yeast-free blini would really be called oladi in Russian. These are very airy pancakes that can be prepared quickly thanks to the beaten egg whites. They go particularly well with strong flavors, like herring, salmon roe or eggplant caviar.
  • The buckwheat blini are somewhere between the blini and oladi in thickness, with a very traditionnal batter. Try them with smoked or cured salmon (like my recent kippered and marinated recipes).
  • The potato blini, too, should be called oladi because of their thickness. You can use them like the yeast-free blini.

Original blini
Yields 16 blini

12 oz flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp powdered orange peel (optional)
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
12 oz milk
5 eggs
12 oz water
2 oz butter, melted

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour, baking soda, powdered orange peel, salt, sugar, milk and eggs with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth. Add the water and melted butter and mix again. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Yeast-free blini
Yields 20 blini

12 oz flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking soda
3 egg yolks
16 oz milk
3 oz butter, melted
4 oz yogurt
3 egg whites

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, salt and baking soda. Add the egg yolks and half of the milk, and beat over low speed until smooth. Add the melted butter and the rest of the milk, and beat again. Mix in the yogurt. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Whip the egg whites to soft peaks, and fold into the batter.

Buckwheat blini
Yields 16 blini

8 oz milk
2 tsp active dry yeast
3 oz buckwheat flour
3 oz white flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 egg yolks
7 oz crème fraiche
2 egg whites

  • Mix the milk and yeast, and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Mix the buckwheat flour, white flour and salt. Mix in the egg yolks and the milk mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place for about 1 hour, until it has doubled in volume.
  • Incorporate the crème fraiche. Beat the egg white to soft peaks, and fold into the batter.

Potato blini
Yields 16 blini

1 lb peeled Yukon Gold potatoes
2 oz flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
4 oz milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 egg white

  • Place the potatoes in a pot with cold salted water, bring to a boil, and cook until tender.
  • Rice the potatoes, cover with plastic wrap, and let them cool.
  • In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, milk, egg, egg yolk, salt and ground pepper. Add the riced potatoes and mix well. Let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Whip the egg white to soft peaks and gently incorporate into the batter.

Cooking the pancakes

pancake batter

  • Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  • Place a tiny piece of butter in the pan, and spread it with a paper towel. Ladle in a spoonful of batter. My blini are about 7″ diameter, and the oladi half of that. For the thin blini only, swirl the pan to spread the batter. Cook until golden brown, then flip with a spatula. Cook until the other side is golden brown, then reserve on a plate with a small piece of butter on top. Repeat until you run out of batter.
  • For the potato blini only, place the fried pancakes in an oven-safe dish, cover with foil, and bake in a 350 F oven for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Serve warm.