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Sharing the Herring with Henry Hudsonby Pierre-Luc Moeys, chef/owner Oriole 9

When Englishman Henry Hudson sailed to his namesake river/valley (already “discovered” by the French) from Europe 400 years ago on his Dutch-commissioned voyage, he had to be sure he stowed ample provisions for his crew—enough to last for an indefinite period of time. Maybe they would find a short cut to the Spice Islands . . . maybe not.

The food on board a Dutch ship in the 17th century was strictly regulated. Everyone on board was entitled to half a pound of cheese, half a pound of butter and five pounds of bread per week, with double for the officers. In order to feed one hundred men, the ship had to carry the following for each month at sea: 450 pounds of cheese, five cubic tons of meat, four tons of herring, one and a quarter ton of butter, five and a half tons of dried peas, two and a half tons of dried beans, half a ton of salt, 35 barrels of beer in winter (42 in summer) and French and Spanish wine for the officers. Not much variety there, but probably not much complaining about it either.

Dutch cooks made the most of the stores, using onions, leeks, and available grains, as well as leafy vegetables (when available) to enhance the basics. I particularly like leeks a lot; it’s a shame they don’t get used as often in the US, as they add such a nice background to many dishes. (Personally, I like to just poach them in some white wine, and top with Dijon mustard vinaigrette.)

But you may be wondering: why so much herring? In Holland the fish is an absolute delicacy that even has its own day of celebration: “Vlaggeties Dag,” commemorating the day that the very first herring came to port. Proper tradition demands that on that day one should enjoy a herring by holding it by the tail over the mouth, slowly eating the whole fish, then washing it down with a “korenwijn” or “graanjenever”—special Dutch liqueurs.

Though mostly eaten brined, there is also the pickled version of herring known as “rollmops.” You can use either style for this recipe that Hudson and crew (well, probably just the officers) may have enjoyed upon arrival to the New World. If they were lucky to meet somebody with beets, anyway. Use this as a nice appetizer. Serves four.


What you need:
  • 1 jar of rollmops, or the freshest available herring.
  • 4 medium-sized beets
  • 1 big leek (2/3 white stalk, 1/3 green top)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • some olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • salt and pepper
  • sprig of curly parsley

Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap beets in foil, and roast for about an hour. Check one with a knife: if it slides easily through with just a little resistance, they’re done. Unwrap, put aside and let cool. Meanwhile, mix egg yolk with lemon juice and salt and pepper, and whisk. While whisking, carefully add in olive oil, drop by drop, like making mayonnaise. When the mixture is at sauce thickness, taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Finely shred the white part of the leek, wash and drain thoroughly.

When beets are cool, peel and dice into tiny precise cubes. Mix with leeks and “mayonnaise” mixture. Scoop onto a small plate, lay herring across the top, and garnish with parsley. Enjoy!


Ancient beet-eaters believed the strong color of the roots were indicative of their power. Folklore mentions how beets were good for the blood: Greeks believed they “cooled” blood, Romans used them to fight fever as well.

More often than not, if the beets worked for them in those circumstances, it was probably more due to wishful thinking, placebo effect. But beets are really good for you anyway. One cup of raw beets is high in carbohydrates but low in fat, containing phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and potassium, as well as fiber, vitamins A and C, niacin, and biotin. Beets also contain folic acid, which is recommended for pregnant women because it may lower the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects in newborn infants.

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