NEW POTATOES WITH HERRING
In Finland, the beginning of the new potato season in the early summer is as much an anticipated moment as the asparagus season in the central Europe.
For many Finns, nothing is better than a very simple, yet tasty dish of boiled new potatoes eaten with pickled herring, a pat of butter and a sprig of fresh dill.
A lot of care should be put in finding and buying fresh new potatoes of the highest quality. Flavour, freshness and texture of the potato are the most important factors when picking them out.
Good potatoes must be firm, ie not give back when pressed, and they should not be watery, floury or rubbery after they have been cooked.
Ideally, new potatoes should be consumed as soon as they have been picked, preferably on the same day.
If you should be lucky enough to have some excellent new potatoes at hand, here is some advice for cooking them properly. Since new potatoes, especially small ones, are very delicate, it is usually best to steam them instead of cooking submerged in water.
small new potatoes as fresh as possible
large bunch of fresh dill
pickled or marinated herring
Pick out potatoes of about the same size and peel them. The paper-thin peel of fresh new potatoes usually comes off easily by just rubbing the potatoes between your hands and rinsing them briefly under cold running water. You can also brush the potatoes with a vegetable brush under cold running water or scrape them with a paring knife if necessary. Cleaned, peeled new potatoes have to be cooked immediately.
To boil new potatoes:
Bring a large saucepan of water to a brisk boil. Add some salt and lots of fresh dill, but save most of the dill leaves for seasoning of the cooked potatoes. Wait for the water to come to the boil again and add the potatoes. Immediately lower the heat, the water should just gently simmer. Make sure there is enough water to cover the potatoes by a couple of centimetres.
Cover the pan with lid and cook until the potatoes are tender. The cooking time depends on the size and variety of the potatoes, but it should usually take about 15 to 20 minutes, and less, if the potatoes are very tiny (about thumb-sized).
Test doneness by inserting a fork in a potato, it should sink in easily. If the potatoes are cooked for too long, they will break. However, a common mistake, practised especially by many restaurants, is to serve boiled new potatoes underdone and too hard.
To steam new potatoes:
Pour water in the lower part of a steaming pan and bring it to the boil. Add some salt. Place the potatoes in the upper part of the steamer and place inside the lower part. Preferably tuck some dill stems between the potatoes, but save most of the dill leaves for seasoning of the cooked potatoes. Cover with lid and steam until tender.
Test doneness by inserting a fork in a potato, it should sink in easily. Continue with the recipe as described below.
Strain out the water and pick out and discard the now mushy dill, leaving the potatoes in the pan.
Switch off the heat and place the pan uncovered on the still warm stove plate for a couple of minutes for the excess steam to evaporate from the potatoes. You may shake the pan very gently to prevent the potatoes from burning or sticking on its bottom.
Coarsely chop the fresh dill leaves (for a quick, simple method, see here) and sprinkle on the potatoes (see the picture above right).
In picture on right: pickled herring with boiled new potatoes and fresh dill.
Serve immediately with pickled herring, pats of butter and fresh dill sprigs.
Mixed with the herring, you can also serve chopped (red) onion, green onion or scallion and smetana or sour cream.
Recipe source: family recipe/traditional Finnish recipe.