The red herring has not been seen on the perambulating hors d’oeuvre trolley since the early days of Mao’s influence, when all things red were de rigueur. And there it is; my fallacy is neatly laid in your path to divert your attention from a very ordinary plate of food giving me the chance to massage your virtual sensory papillae with a mouthwatering encomium in praise of the classic bistro hors d’oeuvre of herring and warm potato salad/ harengs aux pommes de terre. Last year I spent some time in Lyon engaged in the arduous task of photographing some of the excellent restaurants that abound in that centre of gourmandise. Until that visit I had not encountered the saladier Lyonnais which is an hors d’oeuvre of Pantagruelian proportions. The exemplar of this traditional dish is to be found at the celebrated bouchon Lyonnais, La Meunière, where, on the occasion that I ate lunch, no fewer than 8 huge bowls of different salads were presented at the table, 4 of which are evident in the middle picture, bottom row, of the La Meunière compilation below.
Skipping a beat, I will quickly move on to share with you a passage, from a book that I am currently enjoying, whose sentiment ( the passage not the whole book) goes some way to explain my pleasure in restaurants such as this and in simple dishes such as harengs aux pommes de terre:”Complementarity is a deep mystery about taste just as it is about people.There is a profound unity-in-plurality when one meets a spirit that vibrates at the same frequency as one’s own..” A bit poncy, but you get the meaning: certain people, places and foods immediately resonate with me in a very pleasurable but unexpected and undefineable way…the reverse of this principle is even more powerful. The recipe for this dish is simplicity itself and just requires that the correct ingredients should be put together carefully and eaten in the right spirit. In Lyon I drank a delicious light Beaujolais with this hors d’oeuvre, but in the heat of the recent days, when I made the dish at home, I substituted a chilled glass of white and, of course, good bread.
250gms small new potatoes – waxy.
4 fillets of Hareng Fumê Doux (smoked herring /not the very salty sort. If too salty soak in milk for a bit)
Handful of chopped fresh chives
Ground nut oil, rapeseed or some such mild oil…not olive oil.
Plunge the new potatoes, in their skins, into salted, boiling water and cook for about 15 minutes or until they are only just cooked.Drain the potatoes and cut into quarters or smaller pieces. Cut the herring fillets into similar size chunks. In a large bowl, mix together the warm potatoes, herring and chives lubricating the mixture with oil. Leave for a bit to let the flavours permeate.