Chapter 5: Blintzes
A crepe. Some cheese. Fat, of course. Side by side, a dollop of sour cream. Inhale nicotine-laced smoke from a just-lit cigarette. Extinguish. Slowly exhale, skyward. Foodgasmic. Blintzes are incredible eating. A pair on a plate is said to represent the twin tablets of the Ten Commandments presented upon Moses during his stay on Mt. Sinai. So, their existence, it can be said, is sacred. One bite, I am sure of it. And if you are not familiar, imagine a burrito fashioned out of a crepe embracing soft cheese.
Crepe making is not the easiest technique in the culinary world. It can be, frankly, a little frustrating. I tell my students that once the batter is perfectly made, velvety smooth, runny and well rested, crepe building can still be wrecked. The first handful, or so, of crepes are usually casualties of First Timer malady. Pan too hot – burnt crepes. Over adjustment: pan too cool – crepes stick. Therein lays a balance. Crepes made, set aside.
•2 large eggs
•¾ cup, milk
•½ cup, water
•2 Tablespoons, sugar
•1 cup, all purpose flour
•3 Tablespoons, melted butter, unsalted
Butter, for coating the pan
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Rest the batter for at least an hour; overnight in the refrigerator is preferred. The agitation of the flour with moisture promotes the development of gluten, causing a tough crepe. The rest will allow the protein strands to relax. The batter will keep for two days. Heat a small non-stick pan or well-season steel crepe pan. Add melted ‘top’ butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook until the edges of the crepe begin to curl and the surface appears to move from glossy to matte. Turn over and cook until the crepe releases its grip on the pan. Remove to plate or sheet tray to cool. Repeat, using the remainder of the batter.
The challenging part of blintz making out of the way, blintzes are flavorful contenders for good dollars in a deli and make my mouth so very happy. The crepe is wrapped around a malleable form of ricotta cheese; the often allusive Farmer cheese can be ranked with other unripened cheese varieties of the curds and whey lineage. Farmer cheese can be mushy, pliable or downright crumbly. Not living in a culturally-rich, ethnically diverse neighborhood enriched by Jewish grocery stores or the All Night Farmer Cheese Store, I use ricotta. It actually adds some fun play on texture, is readily available and versatile enough to make adulterations to go down, say, a sweet road or the savory path.
•2# Ricotta Cheese
•½ cup, powdered sugar
Combine cheese and sugar.
Spread approximately 2 heaping tablespoons of the cheese mixture on the center of the crepe and fold, burrito-style (bottom folded over filling, right side over, left side over, rolled to look like a burrito.)
Pillows of cheese and crepe blanketed love, the folded blintz is crisped in fat over a medium-hot flame. It is Jewish food, so use schmaltz. The rendered fat of chicken has flavor that simply can not be dismissed. Butter is a good second, but schmaltz brings another of those ever-important layers of flavor. It isn’t chicken-y. Rather, it is depth, another dimension of cry-into-your-sleeve-because-it-tastes-so-good flavor and mouth nirvana. Crisp the seamless side of the blintz, flip, remove.
Recommendations for serving include a dollop of cold sour cream; it’s deli food, dairy with dairy is an accepted practice. The hot blintz dating chilly sour cream is quite the harmonious relationship. At a recent event, Sweet Potato ice cream found its way to garnish blintzes at our table. Magic happened and the ensuing fireworks were quite the sight. Fireworks and lots of exhaled smoke pointed skyward as the amorous affair between crepe, cheese and chilly garnish became the closest of intertwined bedfellows.