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SMOKED MACKEREL & POTATO HASH WITH CREME FRAICHE AND DILL FLOWERS

Posted Jul 27 2010 12:00am
Here in Amsterdam, they love their preserved fish.  Salted herring is sold on practically every corner, presented simply on a piece silver-backed paper with chopped white onion, pickles and toothpicks.  Smoked mackerel broodjes (sandwiches) have been a lunch option at every restaurant I’ve seen; once they were listed directly below the “cream of smoked trout and garlic mayonnaise”.  I’ve even caught rumor the Dutch have thing for pickled fish (which I’m willing to admit, is one of the few foods that doesn’t at all appeal to me).  And since my remaining days in Amsterdam are numbered, I recently felt a since of urgency to explore this culinary custom (which I had neglected only to focus my hunger on that other prominent food tradition - roadside canalside frites).

I asked a grocer to recommend a local producer of smoked fish.  She didn’t hesitate: “Frank’s! Het is de beste.” (Or something like that.) 




I asked a grocer to recommend a local producer of smoked fish.  She didn’t hesitate: “Frank’s! Het is de beste.” (Or something like that.)
So to Frank’s I went.  And let me tell you, this smokehouse isn’t kidding around.  One touch of their deliciously fatty salmon, and your fingers will smell like a bonfire for a week.  It’s perfect.  
I purchased some smoked salmon and mackerel, then scoured the Albert Cuyp market until I found the most beautiful bunch of dill, teeming with fragrant flowers.  After all of that searching and shopping, I had one fighting appetite.  I rushed home to make a fast, early dinner; one bite of the smoked mackerel and potato hash hushed my growling stomach just long enough for me to snap a couple quick pictures.



To me, hash is all about making something of left-overs or neglected produce almost past it’s prime.  Hash provides a second life for whatever you have on hand; chopped, fried in butter or bacon fat and topped with an egg, it’s a glorious reincarnation. 
That being said, it seems a little ludicrous to post a precise recipe for hash.  Measuring and timing would belie the essence of the dish.  So today, I’m just here to offer a rough approximation of what I did, but I think you’ll find it helpful. 
You could apply this same method to a variety of ingredients, just so long as they are already cooked or preserved.  Another one of my favorite combinations is left-over roast chicken, bacon, red onion, potatoes, peas and thyme - served with a very strong mustard.  
Do you have a favorite hash?!



SMOKED MACKEREL & POTATO HASH WITH CREME FRAICHE AND DILL FLOWERS
Hash is great dish for novice cooks (like my husband, who seems to fear the toaster).  You simply chop the remnants of last night’s roast and throw them in a skillet.  And the method is highly forgiving - what can wrong when butter and a fried egg are involved?
SERVES 2
INGREDIENTS
a filet of smoked mackerel (I think it was about 6 ounces)
a quart container of boiled new potatoes
about 5 spring onions
a large spoonful of ghee or grapeseed oil
a handful of chopped fresh dill
two dollops of creme fraiche
1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges, seeds removed
2 eggs
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS
Prepare your mise en place:
Run your knife along , if you have one (and if you’re cooking, you should have one).
Pull apart the smoked fish into large (but bite-size) pieces; set aside in a or and move them out of your way.
Dice potatoes into approximately 1-inch cubes; set aside in a different glass bowl, out of your way.  
Roughly slice onions and get them out of your way. 
Roughly chop the dill, and place it in small bowl that is out of your way.  
(Notice a pattern?  Clearing your chopping block and keeping things organized as you go makes cooking so much more enjoyable.  It is worth a couple extra dirty dishes.  I promise!).
Cook:
Heat up a over medium-high heat.  After it’s hot, drop a large spoonful of ghee or grapeseed oil into the pan.  (I prefer ghee over butter for shallow frying, as it has a higher smoking point.)  Swirl the fat around until it coats the bottom of the pan.
Add your potatoes to the pan.  Shake them into an even layer (if you have more than one layer, you need a bigger pan).  Now don’t touch them.  Let them sit and sizzle and become brown and tasty.  This could take 5 minutes or perhaps 7 - it depends on your pan, the height of your flame, the amount of fat you used and even the sugars in your particular potatoes (see why recipes can be a problem?).  After 5 minutes, check a potato.  Is it brown?  Don’t let it burn.  Brown is good.  Black is bad.
When your potatoes are caramelized (brown), add the chopped onions, a hefty pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Gently toss everything together.  
In another pan, fry or poach 2 eggs.  Or go without, it’s your choice - but I recommend the eggs.
After about 3 minutes (just enough to get the raw bite out of the onion), add the smoked fish.  Toss.  Cook another couple of minutes.  
Meanwhile, get out two plates.  Top each with a dollop of creme fraiche; use the back of the spoon to spread the creme fraiche into a circle in the middle of the plate.  
Taste for seasoning; add more salt or pepper if it doesn’t taste dynamite.  Turn off the heat.  Add the dill.  Toss
Top creme fraiche with a serving of hash.  Top hash with an egg.  Top each egg with , or a garnishing salt of your choice.  Serve lemon wedges on the side.


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