smoked eel with chive, horseradish crème; Lachsschinken


A delicious winter picnic at home, with a very heavy German accent (the picnic, that is).

Unusual for this site, the leading image (here the only one) is of the entire old birch table, rather than just one of the plates: I thought it this view would cover more ground, so to speak.

The breads were nearly as important to the meal as the fish and the meat. The sturdy New York state sourdough combined the attributes of a traditional German bread with varieties introduced more recently into a culture looking for even more diversity in foods already very wholesome.

The pumpernickel however (on the upper right in the picture), with its “characteristic deep brown color, sweet, dark chocolate, coffee flavor, and earthy aroma” [a description found in Wikipedia], and especially when it is in this intense, compact form, is totally German. Its addictive virtues (along with those of all the other varieties of thin, heavy, moist Vollkornbrot), made it one of the first things I fell in love with when I arrived in Hannover in June, 1961; I ate it like candy. I think these pre-packaged treasures, of any grain, are the only commercial breads – and the only sliced breads – I would ever expect to bring home.

  • one small (8-ounce) local (Long Island) whole smoked eel [Aal, in German] from P.E. & D.D. Seafood [for a picture, scroll down here], skinned, head removed, boned, and cut into small pieces, combined in a bowl with the zest and juice of one organic lemon and a small handful of scissored fresh chives from Two Guys from Woodbridge, allowed to rest a bit, and then, when ready to serve, sprinkling the eel with salt to taste, then a mix of crème fraîche from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy and a generous amount of grated horseradish root, both from Eataly, swiped across lightly-toasted and fairly thin slices of a sourdough wheat and rye bread with sunflower and flax seeds from Hawthorne Valley Farm, then spooning the eel with lemon and chives on top of the layer of cream
  • thin slices of Lachsschinken from Schaller & Weber, twisted on the tines of a fork, arranged on a small glass plate, served with slices of an incredibly rich imported German whole grain pumpernickel (Delba-Backbetrieb)
  • a little undressed upland cress, from Two Guys from Woodbridge, to be added to both canapés
  • the wine was a German (Pfalz) white, Friedrich Becker Pinot Blanc 2013, from our much-missed former neighborhood wine shop, Appellation Wine & Spirits
  • the music, on the eve of Saint Valentine’s day, was Georg Philipp Telemann’s 1726 opera ‘Orpheus’ [full german title: Die wunderbare Beständigkeit der Liebe oder Orpheus (surprisingly for the era, most of the opera is in German, thanks to the guten Bürger of Hamburg, who did not depend on highfalutin princes, for whom it was first produced, in concert form, at the Theater am Gänsemarkt)], this recording by the Academy for Ancient Music Berlin, and the Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus [interesting note about the piece, from the opera’s Wikipedia entry: “Most of the work is in German but it also contains passages in French and Italian drawn from famous operas by Handel and Jean-Baptiste Lully. The music to these words is Telemann’s own, however. The manuscript score of Orpheus was not rediscovered until the late 20th century.”