If you have a tin of wild herring in the pantry, you are just 20 minutes away from dinner. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

I spend a lot of time cooking – too much time cooking – when I ought to be doing other things like phoning my recently widowed aunt, cleaning my sorely-in-need-of-it house or weeding my wish-they-were-neater garden beds. But as much time as I am willing to devote to cooking, sometimes, just like everybody else on the planet, I am hungry and tired and it’s dinnertime, and all I want is something fast and easy and at hand. That’s when herring and potatoes comes in.

It is 10 minutes work and another 15 minutes or so to cook. I usually have potatoes. I always keep a tin, or three, of Bar Harbor Wild Herring Fillets in my cupboard, olive oil in the pantry and a lemon in the fridge. To round out the dish, I add whatever else I have around that seems appropriate. The recipe, if you can call it that, came from Yvon, a Danish woman I worked with years ago in New York. Danes know from herring. (Mainers used to, but as far as I have been able to tell, these days it’s mostly used for lobster bait. A shame.)

Here’s how to make Herring and Potatoes for two: Dice as many potatoes as the two of you will want to eat, then bring them to a boil in salted water; I don’t bother to peel the potatoes, but if you want to, go right ahead. Open the tin of herring. When the potatoes are tender, add the drained herring to them and gently fold together. Drizzle with good olive oil (and some of the oil from the tin if you like). Squeeze as much fresh lemon as you care for over the mixture, and season with salt and pepper.

That’s the basic version. I always add whatever vegetables I have around, so I can make a one-pot dinner. Fast and easy – remember? Herring and Potatoes can happily go in many directions, which adds to its pandemic cooking appeal. Among the items I have added to round out the dish are thinly shaved fennel, roasted red pepper strips, cooked green beans, frozen edamame, diced cooked beets with pickles, and diced hard-boiled eggs. I like to eat the dish warm, though it’ll be fine cold, too.

Hands down, this is the meal that has been in most regular rotation in my household since March. Bonus: a tin of herring, which feeds two, costs just $2.99 at Hannaford.


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