The Sochi Olympics seem like a good excuse to snack like a Russian. Herring, beets, potatoes, eggs, and mayonnaise are important ingredients in that country’s cuisine, and they come together in a beloved national dish with a charming name, Herring Under a Fur Coat. I’ve read two theories about what constitutes the fur coat, either the beet-laced dressing or the grated egg on top. I add some fresh dill for flavor, color, and its arguably furry appearance. To accompany the rich, layered salad, I have written recipes for two other Russian favorites, tangy marinated mushrooms and a slightly sweet barley bread.
HERRING UNDER A FUR COAT
Serves at least 10
Use a springform pan without the bottom as a mold (or just build it without one).
1½ teaspoons sugar
Salt and pepper
⅔cup white vinegar
1½ cups very finely chopped red onion
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 pound beets, cooked, peeled, and coarsely grated (2 cups)
1¼ pounds potatoes, peeled, cut up, steamed, and riced (2 cups)
12 ounces oil-packed herring, or more, to taste, blotted dry and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled and very finely chopped (1 cup)
3 large carrots, steamed until just tender, shocked in cold water, and coarsely grated (1½ cups)
5 large eggs, hard-cooked, 4 of them finely grated (1⅔ cups); remaining egg refrigerated
Small dill fronds, for garnish
In a small nonreactive bowl, whisk the sugar and 1½ teaspoons salt with vinegar to dissolve. Place the onion in a strainer in the sink and rinse with very hot water for 30 seconds. Add the warm onion to the vinegar mixture, stir, and set aside to marinate for 1 hour. Drain onion well and blot dry with paper towels. In a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise, yogurt, onion, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste to blend. Scoop 1¼ cups of the mayonnaise mixture into another bowl, add ⅓cup of the grated beets and a pinch of salt, stir until uniform, and set aside.
Set the mold on a flat platter. Spread the remaining grated beets into an even layer within the mold and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Spread about ¾ cup of the mayonnaise-onion mixture over the beets. Sprinkle the riced potatoes to make the next layer, followed by pinches of salt and pepper, the herring, the apple, and another ¾ cup of the mayonnaise-onion mixture. Sprinkle the grated carrots to make the next layer, followed by the grated eggs and pinches of salt and pepper. Spread the mayonnaise-onion-beet mixture over the egg layer. Cover loosely and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Grate the last egg on the small holes of a grater. Decorate the top of the salad with the grated egg and dill. Remove the ring and serve.
BARLEY SKILLET BREAD
Makes 1 10-inch loaf
Adapted from a recipe in Please to the Table, by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman.
1½ cups barley flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons neutral oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1¼ cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Set the rack in the middle position, place a 10-inch cast-iron or other heavy ovenproof skillet on the rack, and heat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk the flours, baking powder and soda, and 1 teaspoon salt, and set aside. In another large bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, and brown sugar, then whisk in the buttermilk.
Place the butter in the hot skillet to melt, about 30 seconds. Taking care, swirl to coat the pan’s interior and pour the rest of the butter into a small bowl. Add about 2 tablespoons of the melted butter to the liquid mixture and whisk to combine. Add the dry mixture and, using a flexible spatula, fold until wet ingredients are just incorporated (do not overmix). Pour the batter into the hot skillet, spread it evenly, brush the surface with the remaining butter and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the skillet after 15. Serve warm or at room temperature.
MARINATED MUSHROOMS WITH TARRAGON AND DILL
Makes about 4 cups
3 tablespoons olive oil
1½ pounds medium button mushrooms, halved
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup white vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh tarragon, plus 1 teaspoon minced
2 medium garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, chopped (about ¼ cup)
⅓cup fresh dill leaves
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1½ tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add half the mushrooms and ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are dry and lightly browned, about 9 minutes; transfer to a nonreactive bowl, sprinkle with half the lemon juice, toss, and set aside. Repeat with the remaining oil, mushrooms, and lemon juice.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat, add ⅓cup water, and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping the bottom of pan to loosen and dissolve the fond. Add the vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaf, ¾ teaspoon salt, and accumulated mushroom liquid, bring to a strong simmer, adjust heat to medium, and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the tarragon sprig and set aside to cool. Add the room temperature marinade, garlic, shallot, and dill to the mushrooms, stir, cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 48. Bring to room temperature, add the minced tarragon, and serve.
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