New Russian Brioche, Herring, and Foie Gras

Posted by Florian in Appetizers, Russian Food, tagged with , , , ,

To go with the Moscow Rules series of restaurant reports that I’ve recently started, I intend to create recipes that are directly inspired by or adapted from the dishes I ate during my visits to each restaurant. Consider this my first entry! In my last post, I talked about Moscow’s White Rabbit, its ambitious Chef Vladimir Mukhin, and his approach to New Russian cuisine. Besides the quality of the seasonal products and the rare ingredients, I mentioned that I was impressed by the thought-provoking food pairings. Case in point: the simple brioche, herring, and foie gras, three ingredients united merely by their butteriness.

White Rabbit - Brioche, Herring, and Foie Gras
Brioche, Herring, and Foie Gras at White Rabbit, Moscow

Back home in my kitchen, I decided to make my own version, with a few changes:

  • I’m inverting the balance between herring and foie gras. Cured herring has a stronger flavor, so I think there should be less of it than foie gras. Living in the so-called Land of the Free, I don’t have to worry about any bullying food import bans (yet) — let there be plenty of FG!
  • Speaking of foie gras, if you plan to make your own, I have a recipe here. Otherwise, the duck foie gras torchon from D’Artagnan has just the right form factor (so you’re not forced to eat tons of extra foie gras trimmings on toast, you poor thing). As for the fish, I don’t have a recipe yet, but appetizings like Barney Greengrass or Russ and Daughters sell delicious schmaltz herring.
  • I’m also adding golden beets to the mix. Since beet + foie gras (e.g., this recipe by Paul Liebrandt) and beet + herring (e.g., the infamous herring under a fur coat) are both fairly classic pairings, I use the beet as a sort of bridge between the two other ingredients. I’m choosing golden beets over their red cousins because they tend to be less bitter.
  • Finally, I got rid of the scallions and black salt. Sure, black salt looks cute on the plate, but do we really need more salt when all the elements in this recipe (especially the herring!) are already salted when prepared? I guess I could have kept the scallions though: not only do they look nice, but if they’re lightly pickled, they can add a touch of acidity.
Barney Greengrass
Barney Greengrass – Skip the line for the late Anthony Bourdain’s lox and egg scramble, and get some proper schmaltz herring to go

I’ve toyed with several versions of this herring, foie gras, and beet trio: diced beet, sliced beet, diced herring, sliced herring… I even tried one without golden beet but with maple syrup alginate pearls. They all work, but the one I’m presenting below (sliced beet, diced herring) is my favorite. It doesn’t even take that long to prepare, so place your grocery order, and try some New Russian cuisine without ever leaving your house.

Herring preparation
Yields 10 servings

about 70 g (1 fillet) schmaltz herring

  • Soak the herring in cold water for 1 hour, changing the water every 15-20 minutes.
  • Pat dry thoroughly with paper towels, and reserve in refrigerator.

Barney Greengrass - Herring

Golden beet preparation
Yields 10 servings

about 120 g golden beets, without stems or leaves, washed
salt

  • Without peeling them, season the golden beets with salt, and wrap them individually in foil. Place on a baking dish or tray, and cook in a 175 C / 350 F oven for about 1 hour, to an internal temperature of 95 C / 200 F.
  • Transfer the beets to a bath of iced water, and let cool.
  • Take the beets out of the foil and peel them. Transfer to a container, cover, and refrigerate.

Russian Cuisine - Brioche, Golden Beet, Foie Gras and Herring

Assembly
Yields 10 servings

about 125 g brioche
prepared golden beets
about 140 g foie gras, shaped into a 4.5 cm diameter log
prepared herring

  • Slice the brioche into 1 cm thick slices, and toast until golden brown.
  • Cut the golden beets into slices about 1/2 cm thick.
  • Cut the foie gras into slices about 3/4 cm thick.
  • Using a 4 cm diameter cookie cutter, cut out 10 discs of toasted brioche (each weighing about 4 g), 10 discs of beet (each about 6 g) and 10 discs of foie gras (each about 12 g). Note that the weights are approximate, and what really matters is the dimensions of the discs.
  • Cut off and discard the brown part of the herring. Measure 50 g of the remaining herring, and chop into a brunoise. (As an alternative, you can cut the herring into 10 discs using a 2.5 cm diameter cookie cutter.)
  • Assemble each toast by stacking slices of brioche, golden beet, and foie gras, with some herring on top. Serve.

Russian Cuisine - Brioche, Golden Beet, Foie Gras and Herring

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