ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: PARTY PLANNER Dining room to banquet hall A California chef’s recipe for cross-menuing success Chef Adam Navidi has worked in high-end restaurant kitchens throughout the western United States—from Broken Top Club in Bend, Ore., to The Californian Restaurant in the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach, Calif. Currently, Navidi lives in Yorba Linda, Calif., where he owns and operates Toast to the West Coast catering company ( and plans to open his own restaurant. o me, cooking is a lot like writing; it tells your story—who you are, where you come from and what you’ve experienced. At a French restaurant, you may taste the chef ’s memories of family farmstead dinners. A chef from Italy will strive to make his ravioli taste just like his mom’s. Sometimes the most luxurious of dishes are also the most simple. This appetizer reflects elegance from first sight to first bite, and the clean presentation allows each ingredient to tell its own story. For the last decade, I’ve had many opportunities to share my “stories” through my love and passion for cooking by catering some of the most prestigious events held in California’s Newport Coast region. This appetizer of salmon, avacado and caviar has been a favorite with my catering clients as well as my restaurant patrons. Its versatility works dynamically well for both small and large parties, and as a first or second course, it sets the tone for a wonderful experience. I love to serve this dish during the holiday season or at a celebration dinner with a bottle of bubbly sparkling wine. It goes great with bagel crackers or, my personal favorite, olive oil-baked tortilla chips. Of course, it also pairs well with traditional accompaniments like blinis. The blini is a neat vehicle for serving little treats before dinner. For the blinis in this recipe, I utilize ingredients that are either easy to produce or that may have already been prepped. For instance, the mashed potatoes could be taken from a batch that’s been prepped for dinner service—just add eggs and flour—and the other ingredients are simply the accompaniments you would serve with a baked potato. by Adam Navidi T SMOKED SALMON, AVOCADO & CAVIAR TIMBAL WITH TWICE-BAKED POTATO BLINIS Adam Navidi, executive chef, Toast to West Coast, Orange County, Calif.,; wine pairing by Marlene Rossman Yield: 8 servings 8 oz. smoked salmon 1 T. shallot, minced 1 large ripe California avocado 1/2 T. lemon juice 1-2 droplets neutral oil, like grapeseed (or substitute canola or vegetable oil) 1 tin (1 oz.) Californian Estate Osetra Caviar (Make sure tin is sealed before opening; inspect for freshness and quality—roe should be intact) 1 oz. crème fraîche (Bellwether Farms), in pastry bag Dill, for garnish Twice Baked Potato Blinis (recipe follows) Method (1) Clean any dark bloodline from smoked salmon; dice into small pieces. Peel and mince shallot; mix with salmon. (2) Chop together until well-blended and consistency starts to resemble ground meat. Place in pastry bag or plastic bag; set aside. (3) Cut avocado into quarters. Peel and deseed; dice very small (brunoise), and place in bowl. Add lemon juice, and lightly fold; place in separate plastic bag. (4) Add grapeseed oil droplets to caviar with small bone or pearl spoon. Pour or scoop caviar into separate pastry bag or plastic bag, and chill for service. (5) Per plate: Pipe 1 1/2 T. avocado into bottom half of small 1 1/2” timbale or round mold. Then pipe 1 1/2 T. salmon on top until mold is full; lightly press. Using small spatula, move mold to center of plate, and carefully remove mold while pressing gently on salmon. (6) Cut small tip from corner of caviar bag (larger than roe); gently pipe on top of salmon, moving in circle from outside to center (1/4 oz. per mold should cover top). (7) Pipe small amount crème fraîche on top; garnish with dill. Serve with stack of Twice-Baked Potato Blinis and small mother of pearl/bone spoon. Twice-Baked Potato Blinis 1c. mashed potatoes 1 T. sour cream 2 T. all-purpose flour Bunch of chives, thinly sliced 2 eggs, plus 1 yolk Salt and pepper, to taste Method (1) Run mashed potatoes through tamis into mixing bowl; whisk in flour. Add sour cream, flour, chives and eggs, one at a time; season with salt and pepper. The consistency should look like wet mashed potatoes and drop from a spoon but still hold shape. (2) Pipe or spoon quarter-size rounds of batter into lightly greased cast-iron or nonstick pan over meduim heat. Once air bubbles appear (about 1 minute), flip over with spatula; cook for another minute or until blinis have golden brown center with yellow sides and soufflé lightly. Serve immediately. Wine pairing: An elegant, silky Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Domaine Taupenot-Merme NuitsSt.-George 1er Cru Les Pruliers 2006 (France) has a long name and a long finish to pair beautifully with the salmon and caviar.