Smoked Herring and Potato Salad Recipe

Harengs pommes à l’huile — literally, herring and potatoes with oil — is a great classic among French hors-d’oeuvres, one that you’ll still find on brasserie and traditional (or neo-traditional) bistro menus.

{I’ll take this opportunity to mention this formidable project from the New York Public Library Labs: What’s on the menu? is a digitized collection of restaurant menus dating back to the 1850’s, and harengs pommes à l’huile appears in quite a few of them.}

It’s easy to see what’s so winning about the combination: the strength of the herring, salty and smoky, is mitigated by the potato slices, sweet and still warm, their edges softened by a rapid tossing in a tangy vinaigrette.

It’s everything a winter dish should be: nutritious, filling, with a bright herby note from the chervil, and a nice edge of acidity and bite from the lemon juice and onion.

It’s everything a winter dish should be: nutritious (herring has all the good kinds of fat and is low on the food chain), filling (the staying power of the potato), with a bright herby note from the chervil, and a nice edge of acidity and bite from the lemon juice and onion. It’s also quick, cheap, and sustainable, and no one complains about that, either.

The smoked herring you use should be somewhat salty — such is the nature of smoked herring — but not overly so. Try a small piece: if it is pleasantly salty, you can use it as is. If it is uncomfortably salty, soak the fillets overnight in milk or water, ideally placing the fish on a small rack so it doesn’t touch the bottom of the container, where the excess salt will collect. Drain, rinse, and pat dry.

Smoked herring has many more uses, such as rillettes, a rough-textured spread for appetizer toasts, a parmentier with broccoli, or croquettes such as these. If you have a favorite recipe, I’d love to hear about it!

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Smoked Herring and Potato Salad Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 22 minutes

Serves 3 to 4.

Smoked Herring and Potato Salad Recipe


  • one very small onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon strong Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 500 grams (1 pound 2 ounces) small new potatoes, evenly sized, about 8, scrubbed but not peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) deboned fillets of smoked herring (sold as harengs doux in France, these should not be overly salty; if very salty or salt-crusted, desalt as outlined above), cut into bite-size pieces
  • a small bunch of chervil (substitute parsely or cilantro), roughly chopped


  1. In a medium salad bowl, combine the onion, salt, mustard, and lemon juice. Let rest to take the edge off the onion.
  2. Place the potatoes in a pan of (unsalted) water. Cover, bring to a low boil, and cook for 12 minutes, or until cooked through and tender (test with the tip of a knife). Drain and let rest until just cool enough to handle, then slice into 1.5-cm (1/2") rounds.
  3. Whisk the olive oil into the onion mixture. Add the potatoes and toss to coat. Add the fish and herbs, and stir gently to combine. Serve immediately for a warm salad; any leftovers can be eaten cold the next day, with the optional addition of mâche lettuce.

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