Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blini (Russian Pancakes)

Happy Pancake Week, one week late! Thanks to my Russian class, we're going to celebrate a bit of Russian culture today. Last week is known as "Maslenitsa" in Russia. It literally means "butter week," but is commonly called "pancake week." Celebrated the week before Lent (and corresponding with Carnival/Mardi Gras), Maslenitsa, is my favorite type of holiday: pagan meets Christian. And you know a holiday has to be good when it features a week of pancake eating, right?
The Christian side of Maslenitsa is this: during Lent, Orthodox Christians generally abstain from eating meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. They are also "forbidden" from attending parties, listening to wild music, etc. So like Carnival, Maslenitsa gives people a chance to stuff themselves full of the forbidden foods while having a rousing good time. On the pagan side, Maslenitsa is a sun festival (pancakes = the sun), begging the winter to leave and spring to commence (but remember, this is Russia we're talking about...)

Maslenitsa is celebrated with parades, dancing, snowball fights, sledding, and other snow games. The mascot of the week is a huge straw effigy called Lady Maslenitsa, which will be burned in order to say farewell to winter at the end of the week. There's also a huge fight where all the men line up and pummel each other (if you have some spare time, I highly recommend looking this up on you tube). Each day of the week has a theme; for example, according to my Russian TA, Tuesday is the "flirting" day when the men can kiss anyone they wish.

Since these pancakes (called blini- isn't that a cute name for pancakes?), which are really more like crepes, are the main dish for an entire week, it's no surprise that you can put almost anything inside of them. Russians prefer to stuff them with things like salted herring and red or black caviar, but we went for a more American-friendly menu. We chose ground beef and onion (1 chopped onion + 1 lb gound beef, sauteed til no longer pink) ; a quick cabbage slaw (see below); sauteed mushrooms and onions (1 package mushrooms + 1 onion + 1 tablespoon olive oil, sauteed- some of us mixed this in with the beef); jam (raspberry); nutella. The one thing you simple MUST include, be it sweet or savory blini, is sour cream. No blini is complete without a dollop of sour cream inside or out. Yes, even on the jam ones.

Blini (Russian Pancakes)
Recipe adapted from Kelly's Russian TA
Pictures by Caroline

5 large eggs
2 tablespoons white sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
5 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup butter, for greasing the pan

  1. In a large bowl, beat eggs with hand mixer until slightly frothy. Add sugar, salt, milk and butter and beat together. Add flour and whip until smooth (the batter will be very thin- add a little more flour if you'd like it thicker).
  2. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, generously spread butter over the bottom and lower edges and pour a small 1/2 cup (or less, depending on how thick you like them) of batter into the pan. Tilt the pan to spread the batter evenly. When the edges are crisp looking and the center no longer jiggles when you shake it, slide a spatula carefully under the pancake. Flip and cook about 1 more minute, or until light browned.
  3. Stack the pancakes on a plate. For savory blini, fill with desired filling and then fold up like a burrito. For sweet blini,spread with filling, then fold in half, and again in half to form a triangle. Top with sour cream.
Warm Cabbage Slaw
Recipe by Kelly

4 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
2 small carrots, grated 
1/2 small onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and cook 2-3 minutes. Add carrots and cabbage. Saute about 2 minutes. Add vinegar and cook another 10 minutes. If you prefer your cabbage tender, cover skillet for a few more minutes. Serve warm inside of hot blini with a dollop of sour cream. 

1 comment:

two little chefs said...

I enjoyed these very much. Thanks to Kelly and her sister for flipping all the Blini's so that I didn't have to.
-Caroline (two little chef)

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