blintzes with shortcuts

blintzes with fresh strawberries on a plate

Blintzes vie with bagels for "best Jewish breakfast food", but in our household they've already won. The problem is that they can be enough of a process to make that they are a special occasion food, which is sad. So I'm gonna give you a few shortcuts to help you make blintzes, in less than an hour the day you want to eat them, using what you can find in a big-city supermarket.

The first shortcut is the blini. Proper blintzes start with an egg-flour batter crepe, cooked only on one side, as your blintz wrapper. For a dozen blintzes, this is already an hour down and the cheese is still in the fridge. Fortunately, more and more supermarkets are now carrying premade crepes of one kind or another. The Melissa's brand, for example, is carried by Albertsons and Safeway. While not as good as making your own, these save you a ton of time, and the blintzes you make are always better than the ones you don't.

package of melissa's brand crepes

The trick with packaged crepes is to learn the foibles of the particular brand. For example, Melissa's are stored at room temperature, and used that way; either chilling them or heating them will cause them to become stiff and crumbly and unworkable. But other brands need to be heated in a pan before folding. Buy an extra package and experiment with yours.

tub of russian farmer cheese

The second bit is the cheese. Properly, blintzes are made with Russian farmer's cheese, a soft, pasty relative of ricotta. If you live near an Eastern European community you can find this, and soft farmer's cheese is common in places like Wisconsin and Amish country. Belfiore and Gina Marie brands offer it in some places. Otherwise, you need to substitute.

One of your best choices is Galbani ricotta. This standard supermarket brand is too dry and chalky to be good ricotta ... which makes it a pretty good farmer cheese. Another option is getting small-curd cottage cheese and draining it in a cheesecloth or paper towels; expect to lose about 1/4 of the weight in this process. If you can get "cultured" cottage cheese, it's nice. You can easily make your own farmer cheese, but then we're back to taking 3 hours to make breakfast, so we'll skip that.

burrito being rolled up

The final part of this is perfecting your burrito roll technique. Like just about any other stuffed tube, blintzes are made as little burrito rolls, where you fold, fold, fold, and roll. It's worth getting the hang of this technique, because you'll find it's useful across any number of stuffed food recipes.

shortcut blintzes

10-14 premade crepes
1 lbs farmer cheese, or substitute
2 eggs
zest of one medium lemon, about 1 Tbs
1/2 tsp fresh-ground nutmeg
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
At least 1/3 cup butter and 3 Tbs vegetable oil for frying
Assorted fruit jams or sliced fresh fruit

Make the cheese mixture: add the cheese, eggs, zest, nutmeg, sugar, and vanilla into a bowl. Mix until homogenous.

Now, time to make the blintzes. Add around 2 heaping tablespoons of cheese about 1/5 of the way from the bottom edge of a crepe. Fold the bottom edge over, then the sides, in classic burrito roll technique. Roll the cheese crepe up into a tube, and place on a plate or board, seam side down. Do this with the other 9 to 13 crepes. Put them on your plate in a single layer; do not stack.

rolled up blintz

Heat a large nonstick pan or griddle over medium-low heat. Melt around 3 Tbs butter and 1 Tbs vegetable oil in it (the oil helps keep the butter from burning). The bottom of the pan should have a good coating of butter all over. Place 4-7 blintzes in the pan, seam sides down, as many as you can without crowding them (the are hard to flip, so you'll need room).

blintzes in a frying pan with butter

Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until the bottoms start to brown. Carefully flip each blintz; I use two spatulas, one in each hand. They can be tricky to flip without breaking them, so use patience, and be prepared for a few "ugly" blintzes. I do not recommend tongs.

Cook for 2-3 minutes on the other side. At this point, the bottom of each blintz should be browned, and the cheese filling should have firmed somewhat.

Continue cooking batches until all the blintzes are done. You can hold your first batches in a warm (180F) oven to serve them all at once.

Serve with a choice of two or three different fruit jams, or with sliced fresh fruit. Diners cut off a piece of blintz and dip it in jam or scoop up some fruit from their plate. Feeds two to three people for brunch, particularly if you serve them with vegetarian Kosher sausage.

blintzes with berries and sausage

Cooked blintzes keep well in the fridge for a week, but do not freeze well.