|Carnaval in Nice|
|Fête des Citrons - Menton|
|Carnaval in Dunkerque|
At the other end of France, Dunkerque on the English Channel, holds a carnaval that dates back to the old fishing days when the fishermen set sail for the waters off of Iceland, and as their departure coincided with Mardi Gras they put on disguises and lived it up, just in case. (Lille, the largest city in the north, has a carnaval too, but it’s in March this year.)
Those fishermen segue neatly into this month’s recipe, perfect for Lent. Somehow the Catholic church seemed to think that fish were something you might not want to eat, something that would constitute penance. You’d think they’d look kindly on fish, Christ having been a fisherman of sorts and walking on water. But no, fish, they decreed, was for Lent. And no butter on it; that would be cheating.
Among the many traditional recipes of France that you used to find on every French restaurant menu was the lowly harengs pommes à l’huile. Herring with boiled potatoes. It came with rings of onion, and sometimes with carrot rounds. But if you had them for your business lunch, everyone in the office would know it when you got back, because herring may be a blue fish rich in Omega-howevermany but it does have a strong... bouquet.
The whole trick is to have the very best herring you can find. And if you live far from the ocean, that may mean opening a can of them. Or maybe thawing some frozen. If you live on the coast, you might want to get some salted herring fresh from the fish monger and desalt them yourself, which means soaking them overnight (1 c of milk + 1 c of water).
- 8 good-sized herring filets (can be fresh or smoked)
- 1 c milk (if desalting)
- 2 onions, medium-sized
- 2-3 T olive oil
- 1 lb redskin potatoes
- 2 T wine vinegar
- 8 T olive oil
- 1 t strong mustard
- pinch of coriander seed (optional)
- freshly-ground pepper
Remember: If you’re using salted herring, you’ll need to desalt them overnight in a cup of milk + a cup of water.
- Peel the onions and cut them into thin rings. Soak them in cold water for an hour to make them less strong. (Or you could use the red variety, which is milder.)
- If you’ve desalted the herring, dry them off with paper towels. Dry off the onion as well, and separate the rings. Put the herring and onion rings in alternating layers in a bowl. Pour the olive oil over both.
- Wash the potatoes and boil them in salted water for about half an hour, or until cooked but still firm. Drain and peel them, cut them into large pieces and put them into a serving bowl.
- Mix the mustard into the vinegar. Add the salt, pepper, optional coriander seed, then slowly pour in the olive oil while mixing well. Pour it over the potatoes, toss lightly and serve while still warm, along with the herring.
Accompany with a crisp dry white wine