Listen up processors. Pickled herring is cool again!
“We Japanese love herring,” said Masayoshi Takayama, the chef and owner of Masa in the Time Warner Center in Manhattan. “At Masa we serve dried salted herring, soaked in rice water for five days and marinated in tosazu vinegar.” Then it is simmered in dried-bonito broth with soy sauce, sake and more vinegar.
That’s right, pickled herring is on one of New York’s priciest prix fixe menus.
Peter Shelsky, a catering chef, is also pickling his own herring, in the less rarified confines of his artisanal appetizing store in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, Shelsky’s Smoked Fish.
And, with a bit more refinement, Laurent Manrique serves lightly smoked herring, imported from France, with boiled potatoes at Millesime, his French bistro in Manhattan.
“Surprisingly, smoked herring and quenelles de brochet are our two most popular appetizers,” he said.
What used to be food for Jewish grandfathers, particularly on holidays like Hanukkah, which starts next Tuesday night, is showing up on the menus of restaurants both hip and elegant.
Herring with wasabi and yuzu kosho paste is one of the haute Jewish dishes at Kutsher’s Tribeca. Benoit and Brasserie Julien both serve French smoked herring with potatoes. A notable dish at the dearly departed M. Wells in Queens was smoked herring Caesar salad.
Shoppers are finding a more appealing selection in stores. Herring used to be pickled in only wine sauce or cream sauce for Jewish holidays. No more. Now it’s in dill sauce, in curry sauce, with pickles, with mustard sauce.
“Whole Foods has much to do with this increased interest,” said Richard Schiff, the general manager of Acme Smoked Fish in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a main supplier in New York. “They want not just one or two herring jars, but lots.” And lightly smoked French herring is also now available to consumers at Whole Foods and other stores.
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