This week on Good Food, Rae Bernamoff talks about opening Mile End Delicatessen with her husband Noah. Neither Rae nor Noah had ever worked in the food industry, but a passion for the old fashioned Jewish delis of their youth inspired them to open what has become one of the most celebrated restaurants in Brooklyn. They now have a sandwich shop in Manhattan as well.
After recording with Rae (the interview will air this weekend) Evan Kleiman declared The Mile End Cookbook one of her favorites of the year. Keep reading for their Smoked Whitefish Salad recipe. Rae serves this on her Break Fast menu after Yom Kippur.
Smoked Whitefish Salad
Rae: It didn’t take us long to figure out that, even in New York, it’s hard to find fresh whitefish out of season, so Noah and I buy ours already smoked. Many big-city bagel shops and delis sell smoked whitefish, though often it’s whole, which means it won’t necessarily be flaked or deboned. We didn’t want to mask the big, rich flavor of the smoked fish with lots of mayo, so we stick to lemon and olive oil, fresh dill, celery, red onions, scallions, and our lightly pickled asparagus—ingredients that bring all sorts of tangy, salty, bright flavors to the salad. We serve our whitefish salad with a toasted Montreal-style bagel, though it tastes just as good with hearty Rye or Pumpernickel and even a little cream cheese.
1 smoked whitefish (2 to 3 pounds), skin and bones removed
12 to 15 spears Lemon-Chile Pickled Asparagus (recipe follows), finely diced
3 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup chopped dill
5 scallions, finely chopped
Juice of 3 to 4 lemons
¾ tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 bagel, split and toasted
Freshly ground black pepper
Finely chopped fresh chives
Extra-virgin olive oil
Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and mix them together thoroughly with your hands. Add more lemon juice to taste, if needed. To serve, place a heaping portion of the whitefish salad onto one half of the bagel, season with pepper to taste, sprinkle with the chives, and drizzle a little olive oil over it all. Serve with a lemon wedge.
Makes about 6 cups
Lemon-Chile Pickled Asparagus
Noah: In my book, a good pickle should have a bit of a kick. These pickles fit the bill; they’re just a tiny bit spicy, with a bright, eye-opening bite. You can use them as a garnish for roasted chicken, in salads, or simply as part of a pickle arrangement.
1¼ cups cider vinegar
1 cup distilled white vinegar
2½ cups water
2 tablespoons sugar cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 shallots, thinly sliced
Zest of 3 lemons, in wide strips
30 black peppercorns
10 dried árbol chiles (see Note, below)
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 fresh bay leaves
3 pounds asparagus
Combine all the ingredients except the asparagus in a large nonreactive pot; heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, just until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from the heat. Bring a separate pot of water to a boil; meanwhile, trim the tough base of the stems and any damaged parts from the asparagus.
Blanch the asparagus until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes for standard-size (1 minute for pencil-size; 4 to
5 minutes for jumbo), and transfer them directly to the brining solution. Let cool. Transfer the mixture to a nonreactive container, cover, and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks before using. The pickles will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Makes about 3 pounds
Note: You should be able to find árbol chiles in a specialty shop. If not, substitute 2 teaspoons of
crushed red pepper.