Friday, January 14, 2011

0 Recipe #231: Potato-Fennel Pancakes With Dill-Sour Cream Sauce & Caviar

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Perfect for parties, winter holidays, & pretty much any kind of get-together, this recipe is an elegant, and also much healthier, spin on the classic Russian appetizer, potato pancakes. You'll notice that this version is sautéed, not fried. For an even healthier version, you can also bake it in the oven at around 350°F, until golden brown on both sides, & that way, you can just omit the olive oil altogether.

Yeah, I know what I said before, but I guess I hadn't completely gotten the caviar recipes out of my system yet, that is, until now. :) What spurred on this recipe was actually something quite practical: I noticed that there were a still a few servings of caviar left in the bottom of the tin after making the last caviar recipe, so I wasn't exactly going to let it go to waste. As they say, "necessity's the mother of invention." Or, maybe in that case, the expression should be, "Waste not, want not," or some other trite, overused saying. ;)

Now that the tin's been completely emptied, it'll most likely be a while until another caviar recipe appears on this blog. So savor it. Pun intended. :)

Potato-Fennel Pancakes With Dill-Sour Cream Sauce & Caviar

Dill-Sour Cream Sauce:
1/2 c. low-fat sour cream (or nonfat yoghurt)
1 tsp. lite, nondairy creamer
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice (optional)
2 tsp. fresh dill, finely minced & densely packed

Potato Pancake Ingredients:
2 c. potatoes, peeled, shredded, & excess liquid squeezed out (about 2 large potatoes)
1/2 c. fennel (bulb only), shredded
1/2 c. yellow onion, peeled & shredded (about 1/4 large onion)
1/4 c. shallot, peeled & finely minced (about 1 large shallot)
2 extra large eggs, beaten
1/4 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. fresh tarragon, finely minced & densely packed
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, densely packed
1 tsp. fresh marjoram leaves, roughly chopped & densely packed
2 Tbsp. fresh, Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely minced
1/2 Tbsp. fresh Tuscan Blue rosemary leaves, finely minced (optional)
3 Tbsp. scallions, sliced crosswise into 1/4" thick rounds
1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (for sautéing), add only as needed during cooking

4 tsp. (or more) sustainable caviar (preferably red or black varieties) [1 tsp. per large or 2 small pancake(s)]
1-2 Tbsp. fresh chives, sliced crosswise into 1/4" thick tubes

Directions: Prepare the sour cream sauce: Throughly combine ingredients in a medium-sized bowl & set aside.

Make the pancakes: Before combining ingredients, make sure all of the excess liquid has been completely squeezed out of the potatoes. This step is very important, as the ingredients won't bind together if the mixture's too wet. Place shredded potatoes, shredded fennel, shallot, & egg together in a large, deep mixing bowl. Thoroughly combine. Then fold in beaten eggs, followed by flour, baking powder, salt, & pepper, making sure to thoroughly combine after each addition. Next, toss in all of the fresh herbs & scallions, & mix well. Scoop out some of the mixture and, if you're making the larger pancakes, place it into a 4 1/2" hamburger patty mold (with a perforated bottom to allow the liquids to drain) & press down to compact it into the mold. If you're making the 2 1/2" version for party hors d'œuvres, you can use a mini hamburger mold to shape the pancakes. Both pancake sizes should be about a 1/2" thick. Make sure you don't place too much batter into the molds, or else they'll exceed this height & won't be cooked all the way through. When it doubt, make thinner pancakes. :) (The reason I like to use molds is that it makes it easier to release them into the sauté pan without falling apart.) If you don't have either size molds, just shape the pancakes with your hands, molding them to the appropriate dimensions. As you make each patty, transfer them to a parchment-covered baking sheet. Repeat this process until all of the pancakes have been created.

Sauté the pancakes: In a large (12-13") nonstick sauté pan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil on high heat. Flick/drop a dab of water into the pan from a distance; if it sizzles, the oil is hot enough. Turn down heat to medium-high & place only as many pancakes will reasonably fit into the pan at a time. Work in batches: Cook only 2 at a time for the larger pancakes, & 4 at a time for the smaller sized ones. Do not crowd the pan or this will make it difficult to flip them. Use a splatter screen to avoid getting burned by spluttering oil. If the pan gets too hot & the oil is really popping out of the pan, turn down heat slightly. Sauté until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes per side, only adding the remaining 1 Tbsp. of olive oil if absolutely necessary. Turn down heat if the pancakes start to brown too quickly. Transfer each completed batch to a heat-proof baking sheet (or large plate). When done, transfer to plates (or a serving platter, if you'll be making them as hors d'œuvres). Drizzle each pancake with dill-sour cream sauce, then top with a teaspoonful of caviar & sprinkle with chives. Allow each guest the option of seasoning their own pancakes with additional salt & pepper, to taste, according to individual preferences. Serve immediately.

Yield: Makes 4 large pancakes, about 4 1/4 - 4 1/2" in diameter, as a first-course servings. Or, about 8 small pancakes, 2 1/2" in diameter, if you're serving them as hors d'œuvres.

Chef's Notes: If you won't be serving the pancakes right away, do not add the toppings until serving time. Refrigerate sour cream sauce & caviar until ready to serve. Reheat pancakes a few minutes prior to dining. Please note that the pancakes and caviar can stand at room temperature for up to 2 hours; however, it's much better to refrigerate the caviar, as it tastes better cold.

Wine Pairings: Choose a full-bodied, demi-sec white wine. Champagne, sparkling white wine, or a regular crisp white would work. In terms of specific varietals of wine wine, I'd recommend pairing this dish with either a Sémillon, Reisling, Gewürztraminer, or a Vouvray.

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