My parents and I, though, are accidental non-conformists: ever since we came to the U.S., we happened to receive annual Christmas dinner invitations by our respective American friends. Add to that my childhood yearnings for an American Christmas, and you get holiday revelry chez Yulinka: a tree that stays up mid-December through early January; a festive dinner and gifts on Dec. 25, and a classic Russian appetizer and vodka spread on Dec. 31. And so it was this year.
St. Nick looked over a very American dinner of stuffed pork loin and roasted butternut squash...
Herring in a coat (seledka pod shuboi), the Russian version of seven-layer salad, is usually made for New Year’s, but it’s often served at festive dinners year-round. A layer of herring is covered with beets, potatoes and eggs, dressed with mayo, and topped with herbs, onions and sometimes olives. Every family has its own recipe, but I think my mom’s has a leg up thanks to a layer of tart apple that gives this rich appetizer a nice kick.
You will need:
-1 smoked/salted herring fillet (about 1 lb, sold prepackaged at Russian stores; not pickled herring)
-2 small cooked, cooled and peeled potatoes and 1 large, cooked beet. Bring water to a boil in a sauce pan, add the beet and the potatoes, turn the heat to a simmer and cook until you can easily poke the vegetables through with a knife. The potatoes will take about 30 minutes; the beets, 1-1.5 hours.
-2 large, hardboiled eggs
-1 small, peeled Granny Smith apple (or another tart variety)
-1/2 small red onion, minced, plus a few thinly sliced pieces
-2 tbs. each chopped scallions, parsley and/or dill
In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup mayo, 1/4 cup sour cream (or thick Greek yogurt), a dash of salt and pepper, and a splash of vinegar.
Cut the herring into small pieces (about 1/8-inch) and spread evenly on a big, round plate or serving dish. Dice the potatoes and spread over the herring. Sprinkle with some finely chopped red onion.
Spread about 3-4 tablespoons of dressing over the potatoes and herring. Grate the apple over the potato layer, and spread 3-4 tablespoons of dressing on top. Sprinkle with finely chopped red onion.
Grate the beet and the eggs over the apple layer. Top with the remaining dressing (make more as needed) and chopped scallions, parsley, dill, and thinly sliced onions. To serve, use a butter knife to slice and transfer to individual plates with a spatula.