Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Recipe of the Month: Harengs pommes à l'huile

Carnaval in Nice
Carnaval - Mardi Gras - has come and gone. France has many. Most famous perhaps is Nice (pronounced "niece"), which has held a carnaval every year all the way back to the Middle Ages, although the parades didn’t start until 1830. Unlike L.A.’s Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, the floats aren’t made entirely of flowers but the people riding on them toss 80,000-100,000 flowers at the crowd along the route, which is why it’s called the Bataille des Fleurs - Battle of the Flowers.
Fête des Citrons - Menton
     Menton, just down the Riviera (Côte d’Azur) and across the border from Italy, also has a carnaval. As it’s the city of lemons, theirs is called the Fête du Citron - the Lemon Festival - and this is its 79th year. The floats in their parade are made up entirely of lemons and oranges... about 150 tons of them!
 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)
  • salt
  • 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

1 comment:

  1. P.S. The only photo of these that is mine is the herring photo. The others I borrowed off of the internet.