As I've touched on before, my unusual childhood household (Japanese Mom, Italian Aunt, Jewish Uncle) gave me a wonderful base for my career in food. Although we never mixed the genres,combining Japanese with Italian at a meal, there were times when there were two meals on the table simultaneously, being eaten by different people. I have drawn upon these different food cultures throughout my life. Yesterday when the temperatures finally dropped into winter and the afternoon was draped in a hard light and a piercing chill, my thoughts turned to blintzes.
Blintzes were not a common occurrence at home. They were something to eat in restaurants, whether they were Jewish deli-style places or the Polish home style cafes that popped up around Forest Hills. They were a dish that I often lusted over but rarely ordered, being too close to dessert and not up to fighting the temptations of dill pickles, corned beef, latkes and kielbasa. By the time dessert rolled around I was always full. Occasionally though, someone else at the table would order them and I would be able to snag a bite. In my mind, they had to be devoured immediately while they were still piping hot and crispy around the edges. The insides would be slightly sweet and creamy with cheese and the wrapping would be chewy and pliable on the inside, crisp and dripping with butter on the golden exterior. They were usually served with a goopy fruit sauce, strawberry or blueberry which I would assiduously scrape off of my bite. Contamination was not acceptable, but straight cheese blintzes, no matter how good, could only be eaten in small quantities without something to cut through it's smooth richness.
As I write this I think that a good squirt of lemon juice would have done the trick but at the time it didn't occur to me. I hated those fruit sauces, endemic with pancakes and blintzes. I never understood why waffles came with fresh fruit and everything else came with a sickly, sticky mess. So yesterday, when the weather turned bitingly my mind turned to blintzes. I think it was a combination of the weather and the oddly wonderful berries that we have been getting lately. These fruits of late fall have been richer and more fragrant than the ones seen over the summer. I had some fresh ricotta, a by product of my experiments with mozzarella, combined with creme fraiche and a pinches of sugar and salt, it made a wonderful barely sweet filling. The blintzes sizzled in my pan and were served with a salad of fresh strawberries dressed with our homemade wine vinegar and baby shiso. It was better than I remembered it.
Also for those that are wondering, yesterday's mozzarella was a hundred times better than the day before. It actually did all of the things that it was supposed to do. This in spite of the fact that I had to substitute 2%milk for whole. It wasn't perfect but it was definitely mozzarella and although improvements will be made, I was happy.
Basic Blintz Batter
Nothing could be easier...
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whisk eggs into milk and add flour and salt. Whisk to form a cohesive batter, cover and let rest at room temperature for half an hour. Heat a nonstick pan 6" pan over a medium flame and spray with nonstick pan coating. (You will only have to spray the pan once.) Ladle an ounce of batter into the pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Let cook for twenty seconds and flip. Cook or ten seconds and remove from pan. Immediately ladle in another ounce and continue as with the first crepe. Keep making blintz wrappers until you run out of batter. Blintzes can be cooked ahead of time and assembled just before cooking. Stack them on a plate with waxed or parchment paper between the layers and wrap with plastic if you are not using them immediately.
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese or ricotta or fromage blanc
1 cup creme fraiche
3 Tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
Stir all ingredients together.
*Add a splash of lemon juice and a teaspoon of grated zest for a lemon cheese filling.
Place a wrapper on your work surface, darker side up. Place two tablespoons filling in a vertical line just to the left of the widest point in the crepe. Fold over the left side and fold down the top and up the bottom. Roll like a burrito to finish and set aside, seam side down.
When all of the blintzes are assembled, fry in butter over medium heat until golden brown on both sides. Serve immediately with fresh berries.