I Like My Fish Furry
I’m a big believer in trying anything once – especially when it comes to food. I think it’s a good mentality to have when it comes to life in general, but it really comes in handy when I eat with R’s family. I may have mentioned this before, but his family is originally from Russia, but also spent about 10 years in Israel before coming to the United States. Their cooking traditions are a marvelous mixture of old-world Russia combined with fresh Israeli recipes and ingredients. Homemade potato blintzes, stuffed peppers, pel-meni, mamaliga and borscht are just a few of the wonders that come out of their kitchens.
But of all the new flavors and dishes that I’ve tried, my favorite is something I like to call Ada’s Purple Fish. The name of the dish in Russian is salat schuba and when literally translated to English it means “Fish in a Fur Coat.” Real appetizing, right? That’s why I call it Purple Fish. It’s a simple salad with beets, herring, potatoes, onions and mayonnaise that I just cannot resist. The creamy texture of the fish mixed with the bite of the onion and the sweetness of the beets is a near perfect combination. Luckily, his aunt doesn’t make it that often, so I’m safe from the extreme unhealthiness of it.
Because the ingredients are grated, I suppose they take on a “furry” look to them, but it really doesn’t bother me. His cousins looks at me incredulously as I pack my leftover tin to take home – they still can’t get over that whole “fur” thing.
Funnily enough, they dish they can’t get enough of is something I call “Chicken Jello.” The most approximate transliteration that I can come up with is huladyetz, which is the Russian name for it. It’s essentially chicken stock mixed with gelatin with bits of chicken meat and carrots solidified within. A savory jell-o mold for the adventurous, if you will. And though every year on Thanksgiving I try a tiny piece (yes, that’s what Russians eat on Thanksgiving along with turkey, stuffing and all the traditional fare), I just can’t get past the texture.
But for Purple Fish, there will always be a special place in my heart… and my stomach!
Want to try your own Furry Fish? Here’s the secret Russian recipe:
3/4 pound salt herring
2 unpeeled boiled potatoes
2 medium cooked, unpeeled beets
6 scallions or 1 yellow onion, choppped
1 C. mayonnaise
Cut herring crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Peel the potatoes and the beet and dice them into 1/2-inch pieces. Chop scallions into 1/4-inch pieces. Spread all the herring pieces on the bottom of the serving bowl, top them with the scallions, then the potatoes, and then the beets. For the final layer, spread the mayonnaise over the beets. Decorate with parsley springs. Serve chilled.
The salad can be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 12 hours.
Note: You can also mix all ingredients together for more of a salad look instead of layering – as seen in picture.