This month’s dish to try came about from Amir’s suggestion. We would take a trip to Sweden through food. We’ve featured one Swedish delicacy here before. Perhaps you remember the kroppkakor? They were potato dumplings stuffed with meat and onions and served with a cream sauce. The name may have been hard to say, but they were not hard to eat. That being said, it was decided to try something else that would be brand new to us. It involved pickling, and it’s not just vegetables that were on the table.
Pickled herring. Pickled herring was our final destination. I’ve never had pickled herring, but Amir enjoys it. We figured it would be a simple creation, and with a dish on the side, it would make a complete meal. Finding the herring itself was not too difficult. Amir grabbed salted herring filets from Olson’s Scandinavian Delicatessen one day after work, and he actually set about pickling it the same night. Now, you may be wondering, what do we know about pickling herring? We had to consult the online guidance of those well-versed in Swedish cuisine, one of them being Marcus Samuelsson. As we looked around for the best way to go about it, one of his recipes for an appropriate side dish came up on the “official gateway” site to Sweden. Our version of the pickled herring comes from a Scandanavian food site based on a television show. Both of these recipes felt like quite the authentic and trustworthy sources, so we went with it all the way.
When most people think about Swedish food, perhaps they imagine a full smorgasbord, or buffet, of food to make a huge meal. Herring–pickled or fried–is most often available for the first round, followed by many types of breads, cheese, butter, cold meats, hot foods, and perhaps dessert to round out the entire affair. The Christmas smorgasbord, known as the julbord, is even bigger with a wider array of foods. Although the regional foods of Sweden may vary based on location and worldly influences, pickled herring is one of the ubiquitous classics. It is usually eaten with bread or crackers, sour cream and potatoes or served on a plate with an assortment of spreads, dark breads, cheeses and butter. Homemade recipes may vary slightly, but the love for pickled herring is all the same.
With the herring already sitting in brine, it was just a matter of tossing together the salad. It is a no fuss salad that is much easier to prepare than the original recipe makes it seem. You can do it all in one pot. The sumac, dill and lemon are the three ingredients that give the salad all of its flavor. Sumac has such a tangy, acidic bite that is uniquely its own. It’s not an ingredient that we expected to find in a Swedish recipe, which is one thing that stands out for sure with this salad. You can find it in almost any Mediterranean or Middle Eastern market. If you find yourself wondering what to do with the leftovers, use it to season kabobs, sprinkle over dips and spreads and stir into rice dishes. Don’t let it go to waste!
Now what happened upon first taste of our dishes. Well to be honest, I realized that pickled herring was an acquired taste that I had yet to acquire. Amir loved it. As you can see, we do not always agree. If you have an appreciation for pickled fish, then this herring would be right up your alley. We did come to a similar opinion on the salad, though, which had a nice bite from the dill and sumac. As always, our kitchen trials prove to be interesting attempts to broaden our minds to all of the foods that find themselves on plates around the world. Now we can cross a few Swedish dishes off our list.
Glassmestersild (Pickled Herring) – Serves 6 to 8 (Adapted from News Can Cook)
2 pounds salted herring fillets
4 cups milk
4 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 cups water
6 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 star anise
12 whole black peppercorns
10 whole cloves
4 bay leaves
1. Lay herring fillets flat in a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish. Pour milk over fillets, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. (This helps draw out the salt; skip this step if using fresh herring).
2. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vinegar until fully combined. Let cool for at least 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together both flours, salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-heat, and the butter to the pan. When butter is completely melted and begins to brown, cover both sides of three fillets with the flour mixtures and fry each side until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and let rest on paper towels. Then, rinse the remaining three fillets under cool water.
4. Cut fillets–fried and rinsed–into thirds. Divide the fillets between two 16 ounce mason jars, putting the fried fillet pieces into one, and the non-fried ones into another. Divide the remaining ingredients between the two jars, putting half of each ingredient in each one. Divide half of the water mixture into each jar. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days.
Bean and Potato Salad – Serves 6 (Adapted from Marcus Samuelsson)
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons ground sumac, plus more for garnish
2 large white potatoes, cubed and boiled
14 ounces white beans, drained
3 scallions, chopped
4 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped, plus more for garnish
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1. Heat the olive over a medium flame. Once hot, add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, approximately 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle the sumac over the onions and garlic.
2. Add the potatoes and white beans, tossing to mix everything well. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until everything is warm.
3. Stir in the scallions, dill and lemon juice. Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper, then transfer to a serving dish. Season with additional sumac and dill if desired.
Click HERE for printable recipes.