Friday, December 30, 2005

Herring in Fur Coat

We are in Baltimore visiting my family and it's crazy New Years preparations here. My Mom and I have been cooking all day! While Hanukkah and Christmas are traditions we have acquired after coming to the US, New Year is a beloved holiday of any Russian family. It was festive, had nothing to do with Communism, and was all about food and merriment -- what's there not to like?

Russian food finally made it on the radar of the foodie magazine editors, and this year both Gourmet and Saveur did a special on Russian New Year. Saveur even offered a couple of recipes for zakuski (Russian appetizers), one of which was Herring in Fur Coat. This dish is so popular in Russia that I don't know a single family that doesn't have their own version. Here is ours.

Herring in "Fur Coat" (Herring dressed with beets)

Note: You have to get a Russian style herring for this dish. The pickled type sold in most American stores has a very different flavor. Go to a Russian store and buy "Vici" brand herring packed in vegetable oil (avoid ones with smoke flavor). If you are comfortable filleting and deboning your own fish, you can buy a whole herring in the deli section of a Russian store, but I am warning you, deboning a herring is a very messy project.

2 red skinned potatoes (2-3 inches in diameter)
2 large beets (3-4 inches in diameter)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup mayo (plus more as needed)
3/4 lb herring fillet (from 2 packages, 7 oz each or from 2 whole herrings)
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1/4 cup finely diced red onion (about 1/4 of an onion)
2 inch deep dish that is just big enough to hold half of the herring in one layer

  1. In a large stock pot, cover potatoes and beets with lightly salted cold water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife or a wooden skewer. Potatoes will take 35-45 minutes (remove them as soon as they are done). Beets will take 1.5-2.5 hours depending on their size. Remove vegetables from water. Cool and peel (the skin should just rub off without a need for a peeler).
  2. In a small saucepan, cover eggs in cold water. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat immediately and simmer for 1 minute. Take off heat and let stand 18 minutes. Cover eggs with cold water to cool for about a minute. Peel under cold running water.
  3. Put mayo into a ziplock bag and cut a tiny whole in one corner to make a kind of pastry bag for drizzling mayo.
  4. If using packaged herring fillets, remove them from oil and dry on paper towels. Cut herring fillets into 1/2 inch pieces crosswise and sprinkle with vinegar.
  5. Arrange half of the herring in a single layer in the serving dish. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp onion.
  6. Holding a box grater over the dish, cover the herring with an even layer of grated potato (about a half of 1 potato). Drizzle with 2 Tbsp mayo from the ziplock bag.
  7. Grate an even layer of egg (about half of 1 egg). Grate an even layer of beets (about half of 1 beet). Drizzle with 2 Tbsp mayo and spread it gently with a spoon. If you are having a hard time spreading it, add a bit more mayo.
  8. Repeat the layering of herring, onion, potato, mayo, eggs, beets, and the remaining mayo. Spread the mayo gently with a spoon on top of the beet layer.
  9. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least for 2 hours or up to 1 day. You should have extra vegetables and eggs left over for decoration.
  10. Right before serving, sprinkle herring with grated egg yolk from the remaining egg. If you are in an artistic mood, make beet ribbons using a vegetable peeler, roll them into roses and place on top of the dish. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve.


Anonymous said...

Great post. I add a a chopped apple, like Granny Smith, or pickles to the first layer for a little tartness.

Anonymous said...

better get this:

russkaya herring

Anonymous said...

it is great, but i couldnt understan, you mentioned 2 eggs, 2 potetos, to beets it is for how many people.

Helen said...

it's an appetizer that will serve 6-8 people

Anonymous said...

Try mixing sourcream with the Mayo....mmmmm...mmmmmm Delicouse