Smørrebrød with Fried Herring and Pickled Red Onions

The fish that Danes eat most of is herring. It is reasonably priced, widely available and sold in all kinds of packaging and sizes. It is tremendously versatile and relatively easy to prepare. It can be purchased raw at the fish mongers and some supermarkets, marinated in jars, smoked and even smoked in cans. For those of you who might find it hard to get ahold of, it can always be bought on the internet. Fried Herring  can be eaten both cold and warm. It is a popular dish for those who prefer not to eat marinated herring “raw”.












Fried Herring with Pickled Onions 

In this recipe, fresh not marinated herring is used.  

Makes 4 

4 large or 8 small herrings, fresh not marinated  

4 tbsp. dried bread crumbs (panko) 

salt and freshly ground pepper  

butter for frying 

Vinegar marinade: 

1 cup vinegar 

¼ cup water 

4 tbsp. sugar 

2 bay leaves 

a sprig of thyme 

6 coarsely crushed peppercorns 

4 slices of buttered dark rye bread  

Garnish: pickled red onions or slices of raw, red onions 

4 sprigs of dill 

To clean and prepare whole herrings, wash them thoroughly, then pat them dry with paper towels. Cut off head and tail fins.  Take one fish at a time, split open, remove guts if not done, and place it on a work surface belly down. Gently, but firmly, press along the length of the backbone to flatten the fish. Turn herring over, run a thumb under the bones at each side of the backbone to loosen. Lift bones out in one piece and snip the backbone 1 inch from the tail. Cut shallow diagonal slashes at 1 inch intervals along the skin side of each fish.

To fry herring, dredge herrings in a mixture of dried bread crumbs and salt and pepper. Melt butter in large frying pan over medium heat and fry 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness.

To make marinade, boil vinegar, water, sugar, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns 5 minutes over low heat. Cool marinade before pouring it over the warm herrings. Refrigerate until the following day.

To assemble, place 1 or 2 herrings on the bread and garnish each with pickled onions or slices of raw red onions and sprigs of dill.

Pickled Red Onions 

Pickled onions taste best made the day before. They will keep in  

the refrigerator up to three weeks. 

Makes 1 cup

4 tbsp. red wine vinegar 

2 tsp. kosher salt 

1 small red onion, thinly sliced 

Bring vinegar, salt, and 1 cup water to boil in a small saucepan.  

Remove from heat. Stir in onion. Let cool. Drain before serving.

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