When I posted the latke recipe I didn’t have pix of the in-process or finished product. I made more the other night and (this time) remembered to have the camera handy:
Two pans going. You can see how thin they are, and the crunchy, lacy edges formed when the very runny batter spreads in the hot oil. Yum.
I did promise the family blintz recipe. This time no pix are in the offing. I don’t have any plans to cook these up soon, but a promise is a promise. This recipe like the latke one was originally shared with the KnitList mailing list back in 1995, and was also collected into a knitters-on-line recipe omnibus in 2002.
MINNIE LEIBOWITZ’S CHEESE BLINTZES
(For Grandma this makes about 50 blintzes – for me, about 35-40, my crepes are heavier than hers)
First a discussion of cheeses:
It’s tough to find the right kinds outside of New York City , I imagine that it might be even more difficult for people in other countries.
Farmer Cheese – A white soft cheese that is sort of like large curd cottage cheese that’s been pressed until it’s solid. Not particularly sweet, but a tad salty. It is sold in large soft chunks custom “cut” from a big block at the deli/cheese counter, or in small individually wrapped blocks in the prepackaged cheese/butter section of the supermarket. There is no substitute for this – if you can’t get it, skip the recipe. Common brand names on farmer cheese in the Northeast U.S. are “Friendship” and “Breakstone”.
Pot Cheese – To get the authentic texture I like to add pot cheese like my Grandmother did. This is a big problem because no one outside of NYC has ever heard of it. Pot cheese is sort of in between Ricotta and small curd cottage cheese in feel, but dryer and with firmer curds, and sharper than either of them. It’s not as dry or as salty as the farmer cheese. It’s sold scooped into containers at the deli/cheese counter, or in cottage cheese style tubs in the regular dairy section of the supermarket. I’ve tried substituting cottage cheese and Ricotta (even pressing or hanging them in cheesecloth to dry them out). All substitutions have produced disasters. The filling becomes way too soft and wet and breaks the crepes. If you can’t get pot cheese, substitute it’s volume equivalent in farmer cheese. The blintzes will be a bit firmer than my Grandmother’s, but they won’t fall apart. The brand name I remember as I child was “Breakstone”.
Cream cheese – Good old Kraft Philadelphia (the bagel’s friend) works fine. In a pinch I’ve substituted low fat cream cheese, but the filling ended up flabby and bland. Don’t use whipped or flavored cream cheese, only the old fashioned plain kind sold in the silver foil bricks or in bulk.
In our family, blintzes are slightly salty and served with sour cream. Other families make sweeter blintzes and serve them with applesauce or cherry sauce. My Grandmother said that fancy sweet sauces like cherry were “townsfolk” things – rural people like her family couldn’t afford the sugar. Decrease the salt and add a pinch of sugar to the filling if you plan on serving these with a sweet condiment.
For the crepes (blechlach in Yiddish):
16 enormous heaping table tablespoons (as opposed to measuring spoons) of all-purpose flour (pile these so high that more can’t balance on the spoon)
1 1/2 quarts water
7 large eggs (6 if blintzes will be eaten immediately instead of being frozen or refrigerated)
Vegetable oil for frying
Grandma beat the flour and water by hand. It took forever to achieve a lump-free batter. Spare yourself, use an electric mixer. Combine water and flour until completely smooth with no lumps. Adding the flour in by batches makes this easier. Blend in the eggs. This should give you a very runny vaguely yellowish batter.
Heat at least two small saut or frying pans over medium-high heat. (Using one pan at a time takes too long – Grandma and my Great-aunt Itke did a ballet that featured four pans and two cooks). I use the same pans I use for latkes, the non-stick small omelet pans pictured above. Pour a small quantity of oil into a saucer. When the pans are hot, brush them lightly with the oil and drain the excess back into the saucer. Ladle about 3/4 cup of batter into each hot pan and swirl the pan to coat the bottom evenly. Cook until the edges have begun to curl and the center is set. They should be lightly marked with brown spots, but not crispy or stiff. Do not cook the second side. Invert the finished crepe onto a clean dishtowel or old tablecloth to cool. Crepes can be stacked when cool.
I’ve improvised using this basic crepe recipe, flipping them over and cooking them on both sides, folding them around a dollop of sour cream and sprinkling them with cheap lumpfish caviar and slivers of chive or scallions. Very impressive looking when bosses or Important People come to dinner, but don’t tell them that Grandma was the inspiration. 🙂
For the filling:
1 1/4 lb. farmer cheese
1 1/4 lb. pot cheese
1 large cream cheese (8 oz. block) at room temperature
1 tsp salt
Mix the ingredients with a spoon by hand until thoroughly combined- do not use a mixer or blender. It’s easier to get the filling uniform in texture if the cream cheese is at room temperature.
To assemble and cook:
Place a crepe in front of you, cooked side down. Spoon one or two tablespoons of filling onto the bottom third of one side. Fold the bottom edge up over the filling. Fold in the left and right sides. Roll the crepe away from you to make a cylinder roughly the size of a Chinese eggroll. The filling should be entirely encased. These may be frozen or refrigerated at this point – both of these processes work best if the blintzes are not touching each other. Otherwise they might stick and the outsides might tear.
Saut lightly in vegetable oil using a heavy pan starting with the “flap” side down. Blinzes are done when the skin is golden and the filling is firm. Serve with sour cream, or with applesauce or another sweet condiment.
This recipe was collected by the Jewish Food Society, and appears in their on line recipe index here. They romanticized the story a bit, but the basics are true. And they better quantified the ingredients, which is what really counts.