One of the infinitely amazing things about living in New York City is the rich food culture and history we have. There are grocers or markets or shops to cover every ethnic cuisine, and, if you are a boutique food shopper like me, there is so much pleasure to be derived from sourcing ingredients, exploring shops, and developing your “go-to’s”.
If you live in the city and haven’t been to the Lower East Side institution, Russ and Daughters, you are missing out on some world famous smoked salmon and one of the best sources for Eastern European Jewish foods. The shop has been around since 1914, and they have everything from hand-rolled bagels and spreads to caviar and halvah.
This is another recipe I developed for the event I’m cooking for in April. Smoked herring is eaten throughout the Caribbean, and Russ and Daughters has some lovely, really woodsy fillets. I was inspired by a Haitian dish that has smoked herring in a Creole sauce to create these crisp and fluffy croquettes. I’m still working on a recipe for a Creole ketchup of sorts to dip these into so look out for that, but these would be delicious with an aioli, a mustard-based sauce, or just by themselves.
I love using beautiful Yukon gold potatoes in croquettes like these. You get all of the flavor of the smoked herring, which is pretty intense (warning: use gloves when handling the herring unless you want your hands to smell like them for days…), but the potatoes lend a pillowy lightness. You can bread them in Panko if you like, but I went for old-school Progresso plain breadcrumbs to get the texture I wanted. Crispness followed by a delicate bite, smoky, salty, a touch of heat…these are fantastic as hors d’oeuvres but could be made bigger or flatter into a cake and pan-fried for a great appetizer or entrée. Enjoy!
Yields approximately 2 dozen croquettes
2 medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 smoked herring fillets*
2-3 tbsps unsalted butter
1 shallot, finely diced
½ habanero, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green onion, finely minced
1 ½ tbsps cilantro, finely chopped
1 egg yolk
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 egg, beaten
½ cup plain breadcrumbs
In a saucepan or small pot, cover potatoes with cold water by 1 inch. Bring up to a boil and boil, uncovered, for 20 minutes until very tender. Drain and set aside.
In another medium-sized saucepan, bring water up to a simmer. Add herring filets and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, just until cooked through. Remove and drain / dry off thoroughly. Flake into a bowl and set aside.
Heat a small sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add butter. Once foam subsides, add diced shallot, habanero and a pinch of salt to draw out the moisture. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until shallot is translucent. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds to a minute and remove from heat.
In a bowl, mash potatoes. Add flaked herring, shallot mixture, minced green onion, chopped cilantro and egg yolk. Combine thoroughly and season to taste.
To form the croquettes, I like to use a small ice cream scoop or medium melon baller to get uniform pieces. Then, I use my hands to shape them into balls.
Set up a breading station with a bowl each for the egg and breadcrumbs. Dip croquettes in the egg and then coat with breadcrumbs, shaking off any excess.
In a dutch oven or pot, heat 3 to 4 inches of oil to 360° F. Carefully, drop croquettes into the oil, working in batches. Fry until a deep golden brown and remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
Serve warm with dipping sauce of your choice.
*The smoked herring fillets I got were deboned for the most part (except for a few pin bones). They also were not extremely salty. If you are using salt-crusted or salt-cured smoked herring, you want to soak the herring in several changes of boiling water to remove some of the saltiness. Again, use gloves when handling unless you want to smell like smoky fish for days…