The holiday party season is just around the corner, and I am already thinking about recipes for entertaining. These Simply Savory Blinis are delightful little finger foods that are easy to make, delicious and versatile enough to serve with a large variety of toppings.

These diminutive Russian pancakes require just basic pantry staples to make, including flour, salt, baking powder, milk, egg and melted butter. You can mix everything together by hand with ease, using just a whisk and a wooden spoon, and you can even enhance the batter by adding fresh herbs, spices or cheese.

Once the batter is mixed, I melt some butter in a moderately hot pan and use a small scoop or tablespoon to drop the batter into small rounds. Using butter instead of oil or cooking spray enhances the flavor and helps create the wonderfully crisp edges that are this pancake's signature.

Because of their small size, the blinis will cook quickly, so I keep the burner on a medium-low heat setting to ensure that they don’t burn.

Butter is essential for building the savory flavor and crispy turned-up edges that are the signature of a great blini. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Butter is essential for building the savory flavor and crispy turned-up edges that are the signature of a great blini. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

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I let the blinis cook for about one and a half to two minutes and keep an eye on them to watch for bubbles to form into holes before flipping them over. If you prefer your blinis to be lightly golden, flip them as soon as the holes begin to appear; if you prefer them more darkly golden brown, wait until the bubbles have expanded some before turning.

Once the blinis have been turned, they need only cook for another 60 to 90 seconds, just until they are golden brown on the bottom. I place the cooked blinis on a baking sheet or plate lined with a paper towel to soak up any extra butter for a minute or two, and they can be served either warm or at room temperature with whatever toppings you desire.

The blinis cook on one side until holes begin to form in the batter, then are flipped over and cooked until golden brown, about three minutes from start to finish. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
The blinis cook on one side until holes begin to form in the batter, then are flipped over and cooked until golden brown, about three minutes from start to finish. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

The blinis can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days or frozen for up to three months, and I will often make a double batch just to have extra on hand.

Traditionally, blinis are served with caviar, smoked salmon and creme fraiche, a French cultured cream that is similar to American sour cream (which is what I typically use). However, I like to create a build-your-own blini bar and serve these charming little pancakes stacked high on a platter with an assortment of toppings for my guests to choose from.

Caviar and creme fraiche or sour cream are traditional toppings on blinis, but you can get creative with other garnishes like smoked salmon and corn salsa. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Caviar and creme fraiche or sour cream are traditional toppings on blinis, but you can get creative with other garnishes like smoked salmon and corn salsa. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

In my recipe, I provide a list of additional garnishes as inspiration, including more humble toppings like corn salsa or cheese. Their small size makes the edges of the blini curl up as they cook, which gives them the perfect shape for holding in the toppings so feel free to get creative.

Whether you dress them up or eat them just as they are, blinis go best with bubbles, so be sure to serve them with your favorite Champagne, prosecco or sparkling water. Simple, elegant and delicious, build your own fun this party season with my Simply Savory Blinis. Cheers!

The diminutive blinis are mini savory pancakes about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, smaller than the average palm. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
The diminutive blinis are mini savory pancakes about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, smaller than the average palm. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Sarah’s Simply Savory Blinis

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Makes: 20-24 blinis

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 cup milk (whole or 2%)

1 large egg

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more as needed for frying

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder; set aside. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg and melted butter until combined. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and switch to a wooden spoon or spatula to combine the mixture until fully incorporated. The batter will appear lumpy, which is normal.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large pan over medium-low heat. Use a tablespoon or small scoop to drop the batter onto the hot pan. Cook until small bubbles form on the surface, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes; flip and continue cooking until golden brown on the bottom, about 1 minute more.

Place cooked blinis on the paper towel-lined baking sheet and use a new paper towel to wipe the hot pan clean. Repeat the process until all the batter is used.

Serve the blini warm or at room temperature with the following topping suggestions:

  • Caviar with sour cream or creme fraiche and chives.
  • Smoked salmon (or any smoked fish) with sour cream or creme fraiche and chives.
  • Corn salsa atop a small smear of sour cream or creme fraiche.
  • A slice of good blue cheese drizzled with honey.
  • Fig jam topped with soft cheese like brie or chevre.
  • Olive tapenade.

To store: Store in an airtight container stacked between layers of wax paper. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw to room temperature and reheat in the oven (350 degrees) or serve at room temperature.

Sarah’s tip: For lighter colored blinis, flip the pancakes over just as holes begin to form on the surface; for darker blinis, let the holes expand for 30 to 60 seconds and then flip.

Recipe Time Capsule:

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Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.

“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.