Renee Erickson’s new book A Boat a Whale & a Walrus includes some of the chef’s favorite recipes. If herring butter sounds bizarre, she suggests you “think of it as rillettes made with rich, smoked fish instead of the typical pork—it’s flavorful, creamy, addictive, and equally friendly to a picklish topping.”
Hear more from Renee on Saturday’s Good Food.
Pickled fennel, lemon peel, parsley
Prep time: 15 minutes // Total time: 15 minutes, plus time to toast baguette // Makes 24
4 ounces oil-packed, smoked herring or sardines, oil drained
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1⁄2 teaspoon Dijon mustard Pinch of cayenne pepper
Crushed flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or Jacobsen for finishing
1 cup Pickled Fennel, liquid drained (see below)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 dozen Baguette Toasts (see below)
1⁄4 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves, thinly sliced (chiffonade), for serving
In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the fish, butter, shallot, mustard, and cayenne on high speed for a minute or two, until the mixture is homogenous, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula if needed. Taste the butter, then season to taste with salt, and mix again. (Different fish have different saltiness levels, so it’s important to taste before salting.) Transfer the mixture to a bowl. (You can make the butter up to this point and refrigerate, covered, until ready to use, up to one week, but it won’t be as fluffy as if you make it immediately before serving. Let the mixture come to room temperature for about 4 hours before spreading. If the butter still seems a bit too firm to spread, work it on a clean cutting board with a pastry scraper, or don latex gloves and knead it with your hands until soft.)
Before serving, in a small bowl, stir together the pickled fennel and the olive oil. Set aside.
To serve, spread each of the toasts with about a tablespoon of the herring butter. Top with a chubby pile of pickled fennel and a pinch of parsley.
Arból chilis, orange peel
Prep time: 15 minutes // Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes // Makes 3 pints
Special equipment: 3 pint-size jars with lids
Out of the jar, this version of pickled fennel tastes as much of orange and spice as it does of fennel, which makes it the perfect punchy topping for the Ricotta Tartine with Pickled Scapes and Fennel. I also love it smeared on smoked-fish toast; try topping Grilled Bread with Herring Butter and layering the fennel on top.
Note: For this recipe, you’ll need about 2 pounds of fennel if the bulbs are trimmed, or 2 1⁄2 pounds if the fronds are still attached.
2 medium fennel bulbs, white and very light-green parts only, cored and sliced 1⁄8 inch thick
2 1⁄2 cups champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar 3 dried arból or japones chilis
2 fresh bay leaves
Julienned peel of 1 medium orange
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Tellicherry peppercorns
1 teaspoon kosher salt
In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes, uncovered, or until you can bite through the fennel but it still has some crunch. (The fennel will give up some liquid as it cooks, so stir and pat it down occasionally to encourage it to sink down into the pan.) Remove the pan from the heat and let the fennel sit until it reaches room temperature. Transfer the fennel to jars, pour the brine on top, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Prep Time: 10 Minutes // Total Time: 30 Minutes // Makes about 3 dozen
Sliced and drizzled with olive oil, then baked, simple baguette toasts are a staple in my kitchens.
1 baguette (about 3⁄4 pound)
1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or Jacobsen. for finishing
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using a large serrated knife, cut the bread diagonally into ½-inch slices. Arrange the slices on 2 large baking sheets, brush with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt to taste, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the toasts are blonde and crisp, rotating the pans once or twice during baking. (Toward the end of baking, if the toasts aren’t cooking at the same rate, remove the browned ones so you can let the others continue baking.)
Serve immediately, or let cool on a cooling rack and serve within a few hours.
*(c)2014 By Renee Erickson with Jess Thomson. All rights reserved. Excerpted from A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus: Menus and Stories by permission of Sasquatch Books. Photo by Jim Henkens