Butternut-Potato Blinis

Last week after making the butternut squash bread, we had quite a bit of leftover roasted squash to use up. I decided to toss it in with the mashed potatoes as a side to a roasted chicken; both potatoes and squash just went right through my ricer with a little grated Gruyere. There wasn’t so much squash that it significantly altered the flavor or texture of the mashed potatoes but it did give them a lovely warm color, both facts that I appreciated. Unfortunately, I overestimated our appetites, and we ended up with about two pounds of leftover mash.

My typical uses for leftover mashed potatoes include potato soup, shepherd’s pie, and fishcakes or potato patties, typically bound with egg and dipped in breadcrumbs before frying up. I decided to try something new this time around, and mixed up a batch of potato blinis for lunch one day. I had the gall to adapt a Thomas Keller recipe, which very specifically states that you should make the blinis from freshly cooked and riced, i.e. still warm, potatoes, preferably Yukon Golds, and thin the batter with creme fraiche. I didn’t follow any of those instructions, using cold leftover potatoes and ordinary heavy cream, adding enough to get a consistency like thickish pancake batter. And as you can see, my blinis turned out just fine—the photo above actually shows the very first one!

Having never had one in person, my only prior impression of these little pancakes was from that “Worst Cooks in America” show, in which there was much bemoaning the difficulty of making perfect specimens. Now that I have done it, I would make a few specific recommendations: First, use a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium low heat. Second, use a turner or spatula that you are very comfortable wielding; I went with my beloved metal fish turner. Third, like ordinary pancakes, look around the edges for dullness or dryness and bubbles that pop but don’t fill in; that is your cue that they are ready to turn. Fourth and finally, flip confidently! If you hesitate, there is a very good chance that you will end up tearing or deforming your blinis, which is why it is important to give yourself plenty of space to get around them.

Also be aware that this recipe make a LOT of blinis, so if you are making these for a party and lose a few as you turn them, don’t despair! I foolishly increased the recipe by 50% to use up my 1.5 pounds of leftover mash, stirring in 3 eggs, 3 T flour, and at least 1/3 C heavy cream (this last ingredient went mostly by feel). The photo above shows the leftover blinis after my mom, my son and I all ate our fill, and they are a generous 2+ inches in diameter, a little big for an appetizer portion. Of course, you could also make larger pancakes for dinner portions if you make sure to spread the batter out to about a quarter-inch thickness.

I served our blinis under basted eggs with a runny yolk for lunch. Flavor-wise, I can’t really comment because this sinus infection I have had for over a week is whooping my sense of smell and everything tastes the same. But the texture was perfectly tender and just sturdy enough to pick up. Nolan loved them and ate at least four, none the wiser to the squash content.

My head is swirling with the possibilities. These little real-food gems can easily be made gluten-free or pumped full of vegetables like shredded zucchini, carrots, roasted peppers, freshly cut corn, mashed sweet potato or any other root vegetable—you name it. They can be large or small, plain or fancy, maybe seasoned with herbs or spices to complement the toppings or accompaniments. They freeze and reheat well, so they can be made in advance of an event. And they clearly make great finger food for toddlers!

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