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‘MasterChef Junior’ Winner Beni Cwiakala’s Corn Blinis with Smoked Cured Salmon

MasterChef Junior winner (at only 9 years old!) Beni Cwiakala ranks this hors d’oeuvres as one of her favorite recipes, and we can see why. It’s a hit at every type of get-together, from a Sunday brunch to a swanky holiday party.

Corn Blinis with Smoked Cured Salmon
Serves 10 to 12


For the smoked salmon:
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon each finely chopped chervil, tarragon, parsley, chives
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup pink peppercorns
1 (1-pound) Atlantic salmon fillet, pin bones removed, cut into 2 fillets

For the pickled radishes:
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced

For the corn blinis:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups corn kernels (about 4 ears)
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup whole milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Nonstick cooking spray

For the lemon cream cheese:
1 (8-ounce) package neufchatel Cheese
1 cup heavy cream
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Finely chopped chervil, parsley, tarragon, and chives

For serving:
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Horseradish zest
Micro sorrel


1. Make the smoked salmon: In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar, chervil, tarragon, parsley, chives, lemon zest, and peppercorn. Transfer half to a plate and top with salmon. Cover with remaining cure mixture. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 24 hours. Rinse off cure.

2. Place salmon on a plate. Using a lighter, light wood chops in a smoking gun. Place tube onto plate. Cover with glass dome. Smoke salmon 5 to 7 minutes, 3 times.

3. Make the pickled radishes: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring vinegar, water, garlic, chile pepper, sugar, and salt to a boil. Remove from heat and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Place radishes in a sealable container. Pour brine over the radishes. Seal and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Strain and reserve until ready to plate.

4. Make the blinis: In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

5. In another medium bowl, whisk together corn kernels, egg, milk, and butter. Continue to whisk, pour the dry ingredients into the wet until combined.

6. On a nonstick pan over medium-low heat, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, drop batter by tablespoonfuls. Cook 2 minutes on each side.

7. Make the lemon cream cheese: In the base of a mixer, whip Neufchatel with heavy cream until combined. Add lemon zest, and fold in finely chopped chervil, parsley, tarragon, and chives.

8. To serve: Using a piping bag, pipe lemon cream cheese onto blini. Using a very sharp slicer, remove the top layer of the salmon. Thinly slice layers and form into a rose. Place on top of lemon cream cheese. Garnish with pickled radishes, lemon zest, horseradish zest, and micro sorrel.

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