Farm Crepes with Eggs & Greens
Aaron and I got our start in farming in rural northwestern Russia, 3 hours by train outside of St. Petersburg. It was a formative experience.
These crepes are the ultimate Russian street food, and in addition to that, their name doubles as a mild swear word, something like “dang”or “shoot.” If you do run into any trouble making this dish, it would be both appropriate and traditional to mutter the word blin! under your breath while smacking the side of the pan with a spatula.
Be advised that despite your most careful preparations, the first couple pancakes probably won’t turn out well. There’s even a saying for that in Russian: Пе́рвый блин всегда́ ко́мом. (The first pancake is always a mess.)
This recipe makes about eight pancakes, including some ugly ones.
1 1/4 cups whole buckwheat flour (substitute whole wheat flour for all or part of this)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons light refined oil, like sunflower
Both eggs and greens are at their most glorious, abundant peak in springtime, making this dish just as seasonal as it is complete and nutritious. After the crepes are made, they are filled and then folded in the triangular shape of a pocket handkerchief, and thrown back into the pan to warm the filling.
Like many beloved recipes that make use of just a few simple ingredients, technique is everything. Some parts of the process might not feel intuitive, so please note that if it's your first batch, you'll know you’ve set yourself up for success when you're worried that your batter is too thin and your pan is too hot. If all goes well, you should also be unable to resist eating some straight out of the pan.
Whisk the batter ingredients together in a bowl, or just throw everything into the blender and combine.
Your pan should be quite hot, a high medium-high on my stovetop. You can test a pan for readiness by flicking your wet fingers at it. If the water droplets bounce and evaporate right away, it’s hot enough.
To keep your pan seasoned between pancakes, you have options. You can unwrap just the end of a stick of butter and apply it to the pan whenever you seem to need it, not unlike a giant chapstick. You can also use a paper towel moistened with a light, refined oil like sunflower or canola. Third, you can cut a potato in half, spear the rounded end with a fork, and smear the surface of the pan with the oiled, cut face of the potato.
Oil the pan with your method of choice, and pour in 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter, swirling the pan to distribute a very thin layer across the bottom. When the pancake is cooked enough to flip, do so.
I often find I don't need to use a spatula to flip the pancakes. You can tell when they are done cooking on the first side because the edges will begin to dry and curl toward you, at which point they can be picked up by hand and flipped. More experienced blini-makers than I am are able to flip the pan itself. By all means, do use a butter knife or a spatula if you want something between you and the hot iron.
Cook it for another moment on the other side, adding your choice of the below fillings to one quadrant, and then folding it over twice into a triangular shape for the plate. Add a little extra garnish for serving.
EGGS & GREENS FILLING
about 5 cups of any greens: spinach, braising greens, whatever you have on hand
1/2 pound mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sauté the chopped shallot in olive oil. As they soften, add the chopped mushrooms and continue to sauté them in the same pan. Turn off the heat, add the spinach, and cover until just wilted before adding to the crepes.
If you're feeling bold, whisk an egg and add it directly to the surface of the second side of the crepe as it cooks. It also works fine to cook the egg separately and add it to the crepe when it is done.