Giant Fermented Latke with Pickled Herring
Latkes are about as standard a holiday staple as there can be. No joke, when asked to submit a recipe there was a specific caveat not to include them. I suppose that’s because they’ve been overdone, overexposed, over-consumed and over-recipe-d. But ever the contrarian, I thought, “Well, they’ve never been fermented!” I was wrong, of course, so I added a quinine-pickled herring salad to make it a little more Jewish and a little more unique. But really, it was just the tasty that I was going for, godly-affiliations aside. Photo by Kristen Terebesi.
- 2 large potatoes
- Fat for frying (olive oil, clarified butter, animal fat, such as duck fat or schmaltz, or a combination)
- Pickled Herring
- 1 3–4 pound whole silver trout*
- 1 liter tonic water (preferably Vintage brand)
- 2 cups rice wine vinegar
- ¼ cup salt
- ¼ cup coriander
- 1 tablespoon allspice
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- A few bay leaves
- A few dry red chilies
- Sour cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Latke: Wash, but don’t peel your potatoes. Cut them into quarters and weigh. Place in container that has been thoroughly washed, even best to spray with bleach solution (bleach diluted with water) and thoroughly rinse. Halve the weight of the potatoes and then sprinkle that amount of salt over potatoes (e.g., ½ pound salt for 1 pound of potatoes). Cover with water and weigh potatoes down with a bowl or plate that has been thoroughly washed and rinsed in same fashion as the container.
- Cover with a clean towel and set aside, at room temp for a week. During this time, the potatoes will ferment, a desired funk will develop (think sauerkraut) and you will grow as a person. Should any dark mold develop on the surface, remove with a spoon and never speak of it again. After a week, if you’re not ready to use the potatoes, continue to store them in the refrigerator—they’ll hold for a while but the holiday’s a-comin’.
- Strain the potatoes from the fermentation liquid, discard the liquid and grate the potatoes. Season with salt, place in a strainer and let drain. In the meantime, get a large pan (ideally cast iron—I used a 12-inch one) on a flame and add some fat. Once hot, but not ripping hot, sprinkle all of the potato into the pan and, using a spatula, form into one large patty, shaking the pan in a circular motion to help keep from sticking and using the sides to aid in forming that round latke shape that’s so familiar and loved.
- Fry and fry and fry that bad boy, till you think it’s ready to be flipped (about 10 to 15 minutes depending on pan and flame. If you flip and it’s not ready, just return to cook longer). Using some instrument similar in circumference to the pan (a plate, tray, another pan), place it on top and flip, then sliding the latke back into the hot pan, uncooked side down, cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes.
- Herring: As soon as you bring the fish home, score the sides as this will expose more surface area for the curing and pickling and put in a large dish.
- Make a mixture of equal parts salt and sugar, sprinkle all over the fish (it does not need to be buried just heavily coated, as this is just to firm up the flesh prior to the pickling process) and refrigerate in salt-sugar cure for 24 hours.
- The next day, to pickle, mix tonic water, vinegar and spices. Remove fish from salt-sugar cure and rinse off. Hack it up. Just hack it up. Place those hacked-up chunks into a jar and cover with the pickling liquid. Keep in the refrigerator for a week. Then remove from liquid and pull out the fish. Snack a little as you do so. Mix with some great sour cream and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Scoop on top of the latke and garnish with parsley or microgreens, fleur de sel or charred radicchio. Slice into 6 wedges to serve.
- * I used a silver trout for this, but you can use any smaller whole white fish or piece of larger white fish as your fishmonger suggests what’s best to buy that day. Have the fish gutted, but that’s about it.