1 pkg 32 mini-toasts (TJs and Whole Foods have them)What, am I writing my own recipe? Only by accident.
1 3-oz pkg smoked salmon
Lay out the toasts on a plate. Smear a small dollop of sour cream on each toast. Tear off a piece of salmon, about 1" square (two "ribs" worked), try to pile it on the sour cream smear Drop another bit of sour cream on top Stick a sprig of dill onto the sour cream Serve on a simple white platter for max visual effect
It would be nothing short of startling if someone didn't think to get me a Barefoot Contessa book for Christmas, and sure enough, my thoughtful (and French) mother came through with Barefoot in Paris. I was thrilled to find that I'd already made at least 5 recipes in the book, two of which have become staples.
I'd seen Ina make Blini with Smoked Salmon on her show once, and then as I sat down to pore over my new cookbook, came across it again. Great idea!
On the surface, I picked an odd event to try a sophisticated appetizer. But a 5-year-old birthday playdate, with lots of kids and 4 other moms, is, believe it or not, the perfect venue. Most of the time at these things, the moms very rarely sit down, and at any moment might have to drop everything, so small bite-sized "grownup food" is a real treat for them. But they're a discriminating audience too: they don't have time to mess around with anything that's less than great. The proof is how empty the serving plate is in the end.
Rather than making the buckwheat pancakes called for in the recipe, I cheaped out and bought mini-toasts. Ina herself points out, "No one will have less fun if you don't make everything yourself." After you decode the triple negative, that boils down to: "Go ahead -- buy stuff." The core of the recipe is the smoked salmon, creme fraiche, and dill sprig anyway.
But my tub of unopened creme fraiche wasn't fraiche at all. With 20 minutes before guests arrived, I made a hasty switcheroo with sour cream.
Ina calls for putting the salmon directly onto the blini pancakes. I found that the salmon doesn't stick to the dry toasts. You want the whole item to stay together if it gets tipped, so I modified it by putting the sour cream on first. But then, the dill doesn't stick well to the salmon, and the appetizer loses its visual punch -- the dill looks great against the white. The solution was a little dollop of sour cream on either side of the salmon. The downside to this is that the toasts get mushy by the end of the party, but this is worthwhile to have the appetizer stay together.
I say "dollop," but sour cream isn't that easy to dollop. I imagine creme fraiche is worse. I had to use two spoons to push off a drop of sour cream onto the tiny toasts. Come to think of it, investing a moment to put the sour cream into a plastic bag and cutting off the tip to squirt it might have been worthhile.
Modifications and all, these were a huge hit. Even my suspicious husband begrudgingly tried a piece when I pointed out to him that this really is just lox, bagels and cream cheese with herbs (he didn't like the dill though). Next time, I will try the plastic bag for squirting the dairy product of choice, and I think assembly will go much faster. This will be a party staple.