Today is the first day of the new catch Holland herring season at Russ and Daughters. The small, silvery fishes from the cold waters of the North Sea are at their peak once a year, starting now and lasting for approximately the next four weeks. In Holland, the arrival of the first barrel of herring is a national holiday, and the queen gets the ritual first taste.
The traditional way to eat these raw herring fillets is to dredge one in chopped onion and then to hold it by the tail above your gaping mouth and drop it right in. Apparently, this practice evolved when the herring were sold straight from street carts, and the best method to eat them was the one-handed pop.
Russ and Daughters imports the fish straight from Holland, and Niki Russ Federman, a fourth generation appetizing specialist, showed us how it’s done. She coated the fillet in onion–“like you’re breading it”–and then gamely draped as much of the fish as she could into her mouth. The fish are large, maybe 6 inches long, but some people can down them in one bite. Niki says the season is “like the cherry blossoms for herring,” and notes that some customers of Dutch decent get dressed up to come in and pop herring at the counter.
Back at the office, we tried the fish for ourselves (warning: raw herring and chopped onion may not endear you to your co-workers). They are wonderful. Silky and oily, fishy but not overwhelmingly so. Grab those suckers by the tail and hang on–they’re slippery!
Next Wednesday the 17th, Russ and Daughters is having a herring and aquavit festival, with herring from all over the world, including the new catch from Holland, and several aquavits. Email info@russanddaughters to reserve a ticket. Or just go by the shop and gulp down a herring at the counter.
179 East Houston, 212-475-4880