Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Break the Fast Blintzes

I've been eating or making blintzes since I was a small child. I don't remember my mom making them, but my grandmother did and taught me. I made them in college for my roommates. I made them for myself when I lived in New York and was homesick for my family. I made them for brunch for friends in L.A. And it goes on and on. In fact, a few years ago I wrote about my Nana's blintz casserole, which is so decadently rich I can only make it for company--and usually as a Yom Kippur break the fast dish for potlucks. As I wrote then, "It's a little reminiscent of a soufflé. You make the blintzes--here with ricotta cheese--and then pack them into a single layer in a casserole dish. Over the blintzes you pour a rich sauce made with eggs, sour cream, a little sugar and vanilla, and orange juice. Thanks to the eggs, the sauce puffs up and browns around the blintzes, which have also cooked and form layers of crepe and cheese."

I love blintzes as a breakfast for dinner treat, weekend brunch, or Yom Kippur break the fast, which is coming up next week. But I hadn't made them for awhile. Then, in August I got a text from Maeve Rochford of Sugar and Scribe, who was craving blintzes with blueberry compote and wanted to know if she could come over to make them with me. Well, yes. Of course. And she not only showed up with her husband Andrew and mom, Mary Margaret, but also a different way to make the filling--and the ingredients for it.

Now I have to admit I was a bit surprised. You know, blintzes are my thing. Scones and Beef and Guinness Pie are hers. But who am I to turn down a "chefier" version of a family tradition--and damn if it wasn't over the moon better than Nana's. Instead of eggs and ricotta and cinnamon sugar, Maeve uses goat cheese and ricotta with melted butter and sugar. So the filling remains creamy and full bodied, with a slight tang. This will now be my blintz recipe to pass down to my nieces and nephews. I think Nana would have liked it more, too.

Blintzes themselves are easy to make. The crepe batter is forgiving. Eggs, water, sugar, flour, and vegetable oil come together in a mostly smooth, just slightly thickened texture. Whisk it together well to get as many lumps as possible out--but don't worry if some remain. Heat a non-stick pan and add just a bit of oil. Using a ladle drop a couple of ounces into the center, swirling the batter around until you get a nice large circle. Let it sit until the edges curl up. You won't be flipping it. Instead slide it onto a plate and then start the next one.

At this point, if you aren't ready to actually make the blintzes, you can just refrigerate the crepes for a few hours or overnight. You can also prep the blintzes, which involves dropping a dollop of the filling onto a blintz crepe and folding it up like a burrito. Wrap them well and you can freeze them until you're ready to defrost them and then pan fry them in butter. So, yes, they're very versatile.

And we haven't even discussed the compote, which is divine. Maeve and I collaborated on this. Here's our blueprint, but feel free to riff on it with flavors you enjoy. We used citrus liqueur, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice with the fresh blueberries. Simmer and stir it over heat until the blueberries begin to burst. You could just as easily, with just as marvelous a result, use sugar and cinnamon, and no liqueur.

Or, if you are über traditional, you can skip the compote and top the blintz with sour cream and/or applesauce. (But, really, make the blueberry compote.)

Cheese Blintzes with Blueberry Compote
Yield: 12 blintzes
(printable recipe)

5 eggs, beaten slightly
2 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Maeve’s version
2 cups ricotta cheese
12 ounces goat cheese
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup sugar


Nana Tillie’s version
2 eggs
1 pound ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar or to taste

Blueberry Compote:
¼ cup water
¼ cup citrus liqueur, like Cointreau (or substitute with more water)
½ cup honey
Lemon zest from half a lemon
10 ounces (2 cups) fresh blueberries
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Make the crepes by beating the 5 eggs slightly. Add the water and sugar and beat together. Slowly beat in the flour until smooth. A few lumps are okay.

Set out a plate covered with wax paper. Heat a skillet and brush it lightly with vegetable oil. Using a 2-ounce ladle, scoop in some batter and pour it onto the skillet. Tilt the pan all around so the batter forms a circle around 9 inches in diameter. Don't worry about perfection. This is a homey dish.

Return the skillet to the heat and let the crepe cook until the edges curl up slightly and the surface is cooked entirely--you won't be flipping them to cook on the other side. Use a spatula to help you turn out the crepe onto the wax paper on the plate. Then brush the pan again and repeat until you use up all the batter. You should have a dozen crepes. You can make these a day ahead. Just cover the crepes and store in the refrigerator.

To make the blueberry compote, bring to the boil compote ingredients. Simmer, stirring periodically, 3 to 5 minutes until the blueberries begin to burst. Remove from heat. Set aside.

To make the filling, blend together the ingredients from either of the choices above.

Make the blintzes by placing 2 to 3 tablespoons of the filling in the center of the crepe. Fold the bottom half over the filling. Then fold the sides in. Then fold the top down over the center. Refrigerate until ready to fry.

Heat a sauté pan and add butter. Once the butter has melted add three to four (or five, depending on the size of the pan) and fry at medium heat until the first side browns, then flip the blintzes and brown on the other side. Serve with the blueberry compote.

The blintzes can be frozen before or after frying. The compote can also be frozen.

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