Latkes with Cured Salmon Crème Fraîche and Roe
We began our obsession with food at a fairly early age. Living in Sacramento in the early 90’s we came across the 2 for 1 dining “Entertainment Books”. Each year we bought two, one for Sacramento and one for San Francisco. Not only did these books help open our eyes to new flavors from around the world but they also helped introduce us to new areas, neighborhoods and of course restaurants we might not have come across on our own.
One of the earliest dishes that would pop up now and then were these potato pancakes usually topped with creme fraiche, smoked salmon and caviar. I started making them for pot lucks and they even became a whole meal at times.
Thirty years later I still find myself making these on occasion and they are the perfect dish to take to a party. They can be a one bite piece of deliciousness that looks impressive but are super easy to make and assemble.
Use a box grater it shred your potatoes. I gravitate towards Yukon Golds most of the time as I find them creamier and almost buttery. Russets tend to be more coarse and will use them in recipes such as my Pierogis. Place the potatoes in a bowl of water and with your hands try and extract as much starch out as possible and then squeeze the potatoes to release all the water. You want them to be as dry as you can get them.
Chop up some green onions and add to the potatoes with 1 egg and a small amount of flour. If these were “real” Latkes you would be using Matzo meal here.
Make small thin patties. Try and make them as thin as possible and leave the edges rough with strips of potato sticking out. You don’t want a perfect circle. The rough edges will crisp up nicely. Use a neutral flavored oil, also I choose one that can handle higher heat, so not olive oil. Canola oil or Sunflower will work great.
Time to assemble!
When we first were introduced to these in restaurants, and therefore my first years of making them the type of salmon used was Lox. I probably stuck with this for over 20 years. And that was a big problem for me. Obviously I enjoyed it enough to keep making them but they always seemed too rich in flavor.
One day recently I was at a local market here in Spain and I found a beautiful piece of this cured salmon. I tried it and personally I think this makes a world of difference. It is so much lighter and less salty that I can eat a full platter of these guys now. I suggest you experiment with different types of salmon and find your favorite. Of course you can cure your own salmon too, which is pretty simple but takes a few days.
Simply place a slice of salmon on each pancake, a bit of Crème Fraîche (sour cream can be substituted if needed) and top with your favorite roe. *keep reading to the bottom to learn how to make your own Crème Fraîche. This happens to be trout roe which I really like. Beluga caviar I have found also makes this dish taste and feel richer. I guess you could say this is a ‘lighter’ version.
Below is another dish I recently made with this salmon. This is not really a recipe but rather a plating. Obviously a colorful dish and it can be thrown together in under a minute. It’s kind of like a breakfast bagel without the bagel. Beet root cream cheese, capers, salmon, red onion, dill sprig, wasabi and a radish slice with a sprinkle of lime juice. To make the beet root cream cheese simply add a little beet juice (buying them pre-cooked saves a lot of time and also there is always beet juice in the package) to some cream cheese and mix until it is pink and you like the flavor. The juice not only makes it pretty but the added flavor is very noticeable. If you are making dinner for someone and you start them off with this appetizer your night will be splendid. Bon appetite.
In the States sour cream is the cheaper alternative. Even in Portland the larger grocery stores would not always carry Crème Fraîche and when they did it was usually 4-5 times more expensive then sour cream. Here in Europe it is the exact opposite. Crème Fraîche is usually only $1 euro for a standard size container, around 200 grams. So there is no need for me to make it. But if you would like to try it is super easy.
Crème fraîche is soured cream, or cream that has been thickened and acidified by the growth of bacterial cultures. Crème fraîche is incredibly simple to make at home: You simply combine cream with a small amount of buttermilk and allow it to rest in a covered container at room temperature for about 12 hours. The ratio of cream to buttermilk doesn’t really matter all that much; add more buttermilk and you’ll need less time for the cream to thicken (but it’ll be less creamy). Add more cream, and it takes longer, but tastes better. We found one tablespoon of buttermilk per cup of cream (that’s a 1:16 ratio) to strike the best balance.
This crème fraîche gets super rich and creamy at right about the 12-hour mark. You can also halt the process early by just refrigerating it to stop the bacterial action. This is useful if you want a thinner Mexican-style crema agria for drizzling over tacos or sopes. For those of you worried about cream spoiling at room temp, that’s the idea: it’s the good bacteria from the buttermilk multiplying in there that prevents the dangerous bacteria from taking over.
So, Combine buttermilk (2 Tbs or 1 oz) and heavy cream (1 pint or 16 oz) in non-reactive container. Cover and allow to rest at room temperature until thickened to desired texture, about 12 hours. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Thank you for reading and I hope this and other recipe ideas on my blog inspire some delicious moments. Please subscribe and share and if you make this dish, leave us a comment to tell us how it went.