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Buckwheat blinis with sour cream and caviar May 17, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Seafood, Wolfe recipe.
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Adaptations of books are difficult things. In many cases, the book is far superior, as the time limitations of TV shows or movies mean that all the complexities of a book cannot be brought onto the screen. In some cases, though, the adaptation manages to concentrate and sharpen the book, making it even more enjoyable. In the case of the A&E adaptation of the Nero Wolfe books, it is fair to say I find most of them almost as enjoyable as the books. I think the characterisations are great, and the adaptations are certainly faithful to the books.

One of my favourite adaptations is of “Poison a la Carte”, from the Three at Wolfe’s Door trilogy. So many of the details are as I imagine them in the book, down to the colour of the jacket the murder victim wears. Of course, in this story, the murder victim dies after ingesting arsenic which was served in the buckwheat blinis. I was keen to try out these blinis, to see if they were worth dying for.

While it wasn’t difficult to make the blinis, it certainly took some time. There were two rising periods of about 5 hours in total, plus the time to cook and then assemble them. Naturally these are meant for the first course in a full meal cooked by Fritz, but there were enough of them that we had them for a light dinner.

To start with, I mixed buckwheat flour, milk and yeast together and let the first rise occur – about 2 hours.

After I’d decorated a cake and cleaned the house, I went back to add more buckwheat into the mix and let it rise again. Then I delivered the cake, had afternoon tea, exchanged pleasantries, and returned home to complete the next step. This was to add egg, more milk, salt and sugar to the mix, and then let it rest for another 20 minutes. Now it definitely looked like pancake mixture.

I cooked the blinis in batches of four, dropping spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot frying pan. For the first couple of batches, I was impatient, and flipped them over too soon. I quickly learned to wait and let them cook and brown properly before flipping them over.

It took a while, but eventually I had a full plate of variously sized blinis. I admit that by the end, I gave up on making small, cute ones, and made a few somewhat larger ones! Still, I did end up with a nice amount.

Now it was onto the filling! I’d made some sour cream the night before, by adding buttermilk to normal cream, and letting it sit overnight. Naturally the first batch I made had a base of sour cream and were topped with caviar and chives. Exactly like the recipe – except with no arsenic. I also made some others with smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers; and smoked trout, pea shoots and sundried tomatoes.

Now, the trout and the salmon blinis were both delicious, the sour cream and caviar ones were definitely the best. The buckwheat provided a spicy, almost beery taste which I wasn’t expecting from the blinis. They definitely added their own flavour, rather than just being a conduit for other flavours. Perhaps their beery taste is why Nero Wolfe likes them so much – he certainly was a fan of beer.

I thought the blinis were a fantastic recipe that I’ll definitely use again for a variety of toppings. However, I’ll always check to make sure there’s no grit – or arsenic.

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