There are people who think they don’t like caviar because they have tasted only the lumpfish variety, which is like eating fish-flavored salt. But top- quality malossol (low-salt) sturgeon caviar has the freshness of an ocean breeze with just a hint of the sea’s saltiness. I tasted it the first time when I was seventeen and my mother’s friend
Petrossian, purveyor of some of the world’s finest caviar, is one of the most romantic restaurants in New York. It is situated, appropriately, in a landmark building on the corner of 58th Street and 7th Avenue. From the outside it resembles a sand-dripping castle and from the inside a Fabergé jewel box. Although Petrossian also serves excellent meals (I experienced the reenactment of Babette’s Feast there for my fortieth birthday), it is most known for its fine caviar, smoked salmon and other smoked fish. And the fabulous presentation is truly fit for royalty.
Gold serving spoons and pallets (not silver, which would react with the purity of the caviar) are used to lift the caviar, and icy vodka is ceremoniously poured to the very brim of the fluted glasses so that even one more drop would overflow. Beluga caviar is served only with toast points, as nothing must interfere with the perfection of its flavor, but the saltier pressed caviar is served with pillows of yeasty tender warm blini spread with cool thick crème fraîche.
The Petrossian blini recipe was given to me by Dro Proudian. Thousands of them are prepared each year to serve at the restaurant and also to ship mail order. These blini are so delicious they would make even less expensive caviar, such as red salmon caviar, more of a treat. What could be more perfect for Christmas Eve, or even perhaps a festive Christmas breakfast? For me, this is the ultimate way to celebrate the most important occasions.
|fresh yeast or|
|dry yeast (not rapid rise)|
|bleached all-purpose flour|
|cream of tartar||•||•|
|caviar, preferably sevruga or osetra*||•|
*Available by mail order from Petrossian (800-828-9241).
Proof the yeast: Crumble the fresh yeast into a small bowl and add
In a medium bowl, place the egg yolks and gradually whisk in the oil to form a thick emulsion resembling mayonnaise.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, remaining
Cover the mixture tightly with plastic wrap (preferably Saran brand) and set aside in a warm draft-free place for 1 to 1½ hours or until doubled in bulk and tiny bubbles appear all over the surface.
In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Using a large whisk or rubber spatula, fold the whites into the batter.
Heat the pan or griddle over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles when dropped onto the pan. Spray lightly with nonstick vegetable shortening or brush with oil. Pour a scant
Serve the blini with the crème fraîche and caviar on the side. The blini are delicious both warm and at room temperature.
NOTE: The blini can be prepared ahead of time and frozen. Allow the blini to cool, then stack them and wrap them first in plastic wrap and then heavy- duty foil. Allow them to defrost at room temperature. Arrange the blini in single layers on baking sheets and reheat them in a 350°F. oven for about 10 minutes or until heated through. You may also loosely wrap the blinis in paper towels in stacks of four and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. I find them to be delicious at room temperature as well.
© 1992 Rose Levy Beranbaum. All rights reserved.