On Sunday, Taras's parents hosted a family brunch to celebrate Maslenitsa, an Eastern Slavic folk holiday that signifies the end of winter, the coming of spring and new crops, and that, more recently, has become part of Orthodox and Christian Lent.
Long ago, the celebration of Maslenitsa lasted a week and each day had a specific activity - I really like this write-up on Maslenitsa and the daily celebrations. Taras's family observes the holiday on one day (which is more common these days) over pancakes with family and friends. The focal point of the celebration is Russian pancakes, called blini, which represent the sun:
So, since Maslenitsa is all about the pancakes, let's talk about them, shall we? My mother in law doesn't use recipes so I can't really give you hers, but check out this one. Once the pancakes are made, then comes the fun part... eating them! There are a lot of different ways to top them.
I may or may not have forced Taras to eat until I could photograph one of each...
My favorite is a mixture of jam and sour cream. If you're feeling particularly Russian-inspired, then use your own homemade jam. :) You can either mix the jam and sour cream into a little dish, then dip a rolled up blin into the mixture, or spoon the mixture inside the blin before rolling it up. If you've never experienced the deliciousness that is jam and sour cream mixed together, you must try it! You could even top American pancakes with it. Or, you know, just eat it with a spoon.
Another way is to put a mixture of fruit inside the blin before rolling it up (Taras likes to add a dollop of sour cream). The mixture we used was peach, kiwi, strawberry, blackberry, and blueberry. We cut it in small pieces and let it sit together overnight so the flavors and juices all melded together. Yum!
A savory option is blini filled with ground beef. We made these the night before. Taras's mom cooked chunks of beef in a pot of water and spices (much like if you were making beef or chicken stalk) then when the beef was tender they put it through the meat grinder. I asked about buying ground beef from the grocery store, but to get the beef just right, the home grind works best. The ground beef is mixed with sauteed white onions, rolled into the blini, then served with a cup of the beef broth. It's delicious and is usually eaten at lunch (whereas the jam and fruit are traditionally enjoyed in the morning).
And, the finale, the super sweet option. If you boil a can of sweetened condensed milk it will turn into an amazing carmel-y slash dulce de leche-y sauce. It's sweet. And it's amazing. Just spoon it inside a blin and roll it up! And think of all the ways you could use this sauce - on top of cakes, cookies, ice cream sundaes...
Oh, and we also made sure to include some American brunch staples: mimosas, egg casserole, and quiche!
Are you hungry for pancakes yet?
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