Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Smoked Herring Spread Platter

     An Old Fashioned Yacht Club Style Smoked Herring Platter!
     While working at exclusive yacht clubs, I learned quite a bit about classic food presentations.  Yacht clubs are places that are timeless.  Classic entrées from the 1920's and 1930's are still served the way they were originally presented.  Traditional classic presentations are a running theme in yacht clubs.
     At the yacht clubs in Florida, we used to present smoked herring, smoked salmon and smoked mullet just like the style of presentation in the pictures.  The yacht club members liked easy to recognize American words on menus and they preferred old fashioned whole fish presentations.  Presenting fish with its own head and tail is an old time way of saying that the fish is healthy and fresh, even if the fish is smoked herring.
     Smoked Herring is usually heavily salted during the curing process before smoking.  It is best to taste the smoked herring before using it to make a recipe.  If the smoked herring is very salty, then it must be soaked in warm water to leach out the salt.  If the herring is lightly salted, then the recipe can be made with no added salt.  The smoked herring in the photos had the perfect amount of saltiness and it was ready to eat as it was.
      When removing the skin and bones, try to leave one thick whole upper filet section intact.  The whole filet section will be set upon the smoked herring spread as a garnish.  This adds a nice effect to the banquet style platter presentation.  Chunky bits of smoked herring can be scooped up with the smooth spread and this adds character that guests enjoy.   Retaining 1 whole thick section of a smoked herring filet is much more difficult to do than it sounds.  A long narrow filet half can easily break, but fortunately a minor break can easily be fit back together.  A long cake spatula is best for handling the filet half, once it is separated from the bones.  .
     Back when this recipe was written, herring sustainability was not an issue.  Herring have dropped to low numbers in recent years, so check the current sustainability status before making a purchase.  "The fish that is saved from extinction today, will be the seafood of tomorrow" is a good acronym for practicing sustainable seafood shopping, in order to enjoy guilt free dining.  For a reliable seafood sustainability website reference, follow this link:  Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch    

     Smoked Herring Preparation:
     Work on one side of the smoked herring at a time.  That will make the first few steps much easier to do!
     Step 1:  Select a Smoked Whole Atlantic or Pacific Herring that is about 11" long.
     Chill the smoked herring, so the meat becomes firm.
     Step 2:  Use the back of a paring knife to gently scrape the loose skin and scales off of one side of the smoked herring.
     Step 3:  Use a paring knife to loosen the long filet sections from the bones.
     Use a long cake spatula to set the filet sections aside.
     Carefully remove any lateral bones that may still be attached to the meat.
     Step 4:  Flip the fish over and repeat steps 2 & 3.
     Step 5:  *Taste a small piece of the smoked herring to check the level of salt.  If the smoked herring has a low salt content, then skip the rinsing steps.
      If the smoked herring filets are very salty, then the excess salt will have to be leached out.  If too salty, follow these steps:
     - Place the herring filets in a long shallow container and cover the filets with warm water.  Soak the filets for 10 minutes.
     - Drain off the water.
     - Repeat the salt leaching steps 3 or 4 times, so the salty flavor is minimized.   
     Step 6:  Set one of the undamaged long thick smoked herring filet sections aside on a platter for later in the recipe.
     Place the rest of the smoked herring filets in a mixing bowl.
     Set the mixing bowl aside.
     Step 7:  Use a chef's knife to separate the head and tail from the spine bones.
     Set the head and tail aside for later in the recipe.
     Discard the spine bones.

     Smoked Herring Spread: 
     Step 1:  Add 1/3 cup of minced celery to the prepared smoked herring filet meat in the mixing bowl.
     Add 1/3 cup of minced onion.
     Add 1 minced green onion.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced green bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced rinsed capers.
     Step 2:  Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Mash and toss the ingredients together, till the smoked herring filets are thoroughly flaked.
     Step 4:  Add just enough mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together, while mixing with a spoon.
     *About 1/2 cup.  The smoked herring spread should not be to loose of a texture, but it should not be too dry.  Add a small amount of mayonnaise at a time while mixing, till the mixture has a firm, yet smooth spreadable texture.  

     Smoked Herring Spread Platter:
     An 11" long smoked whole herring will yield enough garnished spread for 4 guests.
     The head and tail of the smoked herring were retained, so the smoked herring spread can be shaped like a whole fish.  This is a classic way to present smoked fish spread at a party or banquet.     
     Step 1:  Select a 12" to 14" long oval shaped serving platter.
     Place a small bed of baby mixed lettuce lengthwise on one half of the oval platter.
     Place the smoked herring head on the lettuce on one end of the platter.
     Place the tail piece of the herring on the other end of the platter.
     Step 2:  Mound the smoked herring spread on the lettuce between the herring head and tail.
     Shape the smoked herring spread, so it looks like the original body of the whole smoked herring.
     Smooth the herring spread with a spoon, so it looks uniform.
     Step 3:  Use a long cake spatula to place the reserved long whole smoked herring filet section on top of the long mound of smoked herring spread.
     Step 4:  Sprinkle 1 pinch of cayenne pepper over the shaped smoked herring spread.
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 pinches of Spanish Paprika over the smoked herring.
     Step 5:  Place about 8 pieces of rectangle cut toasted marble rye bread on the back half of the platter.
     Step 6:  Place 1 hard boiled egg that is cut in half on one end of the platter.
     Garnish the egg with a few capers and an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Step 7:  Place a few thin slices of plum tomato on the other end of the platter.
     Place a couple of thin sliced lemon curls on the tomato slices.
     Garnish the lemon slice curls with an Italian Parsley leaf.

     This smoked herring spread has a nice light flavor that will please guests.  Smoke herring is loaded with Omega-3 Fatty Acids, so the health benefits will please guests too.        

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