I love fish in many forms, but it has taken me a long time to come around to liking pickled fish. Sushi is no problem, but fish that has been pickled raw is another thing entirely. My mom loves the pickled herring and onions that is available in jars in the supermarket. I would always turn up my nose whenever I would see her eating it for a snack. I've never taken a liking to it mostly because of the herring, which has such a fishy taste. Slowly though I've come to appreciate it, but what I like even more is soused fish, which is very similar to pickled fish, but its taste is much more subtle and to my liking.
Sousing is a technique of preserving fish, where the fish is either baked in a brine or cooked and then submerged in a brine. The end result is a lot like pickled fish but with less of that notorious fishy taste. Both pickling and sousing are commonly done in Dutch, Swedish, and German cuisines. A popular soused dish is called matjes herring, which I recently enjoyed at Aquavit, New York's famous Scandinavian restaurant. It inspired me to create this dish. But instead of using herring, I chose a similarly sized fish but one that's tender and flaky.
The tiny whiting fish are nutty and subtly flavored and not at all oily. I use the second sousing technique. The fillets are coated in flour and fried in hot oil. A boiling brine is then poured over them and the fish are allowed to cool. The same brine is also used for pickling the onions, radishes, and carrots to serve alongside. Pickled onions are of course a requirement to serve with pickled herring, so what would this soused whiting fish be without them?
To serve, I dot the plate with dollops of sour cream and dill, the most traditional herb to pair with fish. Surprisingly, the sourness and creaminess of the sour cream helps to offset the sourness of the brine. The end result is a dish that can be enjoyed as a snack or an appetizer before a Scandinavian themed dinner this Friday.
Soused Whiting Fish with Pickled Vegetables
for the whiting fish:
6 whiting fish fillets (from 3 whole fish)
1/4 cup Wondra flour
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
for the vegetables:
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 small radishes, thinly sliced
2 small carrots, thinly sliced
for the brine:
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
for the garnish:
Pat fish dry. Season each side with salt and pepper and coat with flour. Warm a thin layer of oil in a sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Add fillets skin side down and cook 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Add fillets to a shallow casserole.
Add the onion, radish, and carrot slices to a bowl.
To make brine, combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and spices in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Pour half the brine over the sliced vegetables and cover with a small plate to submerge them. Pour the remaining brine over the fish. Let fish and vegetables come to room temperature. Chill overnight. Serve with dollops of sour cream and sprigs of dill. Yield: 6 appetizer servings.