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February 5, 2014

Serve up a bundle of love (and caviar)

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s a luxurious little treat to make and serve at home that may bring to mind your most elite restaurant thrills. It’s based on the beggar’s purse, a signature appetizer at the Quilted Giraffe, a groundbreaking ’80s-era New York City restaurant.

The beggar’s purse was a voluptuous serving of Beluga caviar and sour cream spooned onto the center of a crepe, the ends of which were then gathered up and tied with a bow of chive. The resulting little bag with the pleats at the top looked like a purse, but there was nothing beggarly about its contents. It was rich in all ways.

Caviar has been considered a decadent treat for ages. About 200 years ago, the United States produced so much of it, saloons used to give it away for free with a glass of beer. That changed, of course. And as true sturgeon caviar (considered the very best) has become rarer, the price has become steeper.

In recent decades, American-made caviar has made a comeback. And the quality is excellent. You can find several American sturgeon caviars, as well as many fish roes, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, paddlefish and bowfin. Less expensive than sturgeon caviar, they’re all quite tasty, which makes them good alternatives for the budget-minded.

This recipe is a Russian-leaning variation on the Quilted Giraffe original. I’ve replaced the crepes with blini, the buckwheat pancakes on which the Russians serve caviar. I’ve also swapped in low-fat sour cream for the full-fat variety and added smoked salmon to bulk up the protein. It’s still plenty rich.

I added a little all-purpose flour to the blini; the buckwheat contributes hearty flavor to the dish, but it needs the gluten of all-purpose to hold together. The resulting pancake is a little thicker and larger than a crepe, which means the purse is a little larger than those served at the Quilted Giraffe. Accordingly, it takes two scrumptious bites, not one, to polish off one of these delightful little packages.

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