Cafe Juanita Presents: Alaskan Herring in Saor on Hearth Bread crostini with shaved fennel

Alaskan herring in Saor on Hearth Bread crostini with shaved fennel from Cafe Juanita for Alaska Herring Week 2017. Photo courtesy Cafe Juanita.

Did you know that Alaska Herring Week 2017 features no less than eight James Beard Award winners? From James Beard Award winner, Cafe Juanita, in Kirkland, we have Alaskan herring in Saor on Hearth Bread crostini with shaved fennel for Alaska Herring Week 2017.

Wanna make this at home? You can purchase the same Alaska Herring fillets being used by Seattle’s top chefs for Alaska Herring Week from Central Coop on Capitol Hill, Freshy’s Seafood Market on Mercer Island, Old Ballard Liquor Co. in Ballard, and Wild Salmon Seafood Market at Fisherman’s Terminal! Once you’ve done that, here’s the recipe:

Recipe: Herring in Saor on Crostini with Shaved Fennel


  • 1 c. salt
  • 1 gallon water
  • 10 ea. herring filets
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 ½ c. Champagne vinegar
  • 8 large shallots, cut into ¼” rings
  • 1 c. pine nuts
  • 2 Tbsp. Fennel seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • 2 ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 loaf, day old, sour dough bread, cut into 10 large slices, 1/8th inch thick
  • 1 whole head of fennel, shaved into thin slices
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

To prepare the herring filets and place them ‘en saor:’

  1. Combine the water and salt and whisk until the salt dissolves to make a brine.
  2. Place the herring filets in the brine. Cover the container and place in refrigeration for 2 days.
  3. Combine the raisins and the champagne vinegar together and leave to plump, at room temperature, for at least one hour.
  4. Remove the herring filets from the water and pat dry with paper towels until all the filets are completely dry.
  5. Heat a large sauté pan on medium to high heat. Once it is hot add about 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Place the herring in the pan skin side down. Only put enough herring in the pan that they are in one layer in the pan with about an inch between filets. You will have to cook them in batches.
  6. Once the herring are crispy on the skin side, about 1-2 minutes, flip them over and cook them on the flesh side for about another 2 minutes. Place them, skin side up in a shallow container that can hold all the filets. It is perfectly great if you need to stack the herring fillets in a few layers.
  7. Once all of the herring fillets are cooked and stacked in the shallow container, heat up a clean medium sauté pan over medium heat.
  8. Add about 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil and the sliced shallots.
  9. Turn the heat down to medium low and let the shallots sweat for about 5-7 minutes or until they are translucent and soft. Stir often.
  10. Add the champagne vinegar, golden raisins, pine nuts, ground fennel seeds and the 2 cups of extra virgin olive oil to the shallots.
  11. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then pour the mixture over the herring filets.
  12. Make sure the herring are completely covered with the mixture. If the level of liquid does not cover the herring, add enough of the extra virgin olive oil so that all the fillets are completely covered.
  13. Leave the counter out of refrigeration until it cools to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 days.
  14. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To make the crostini and assemble the dish:

  1. Place the slices of sourdough bread onto a sheet tray and brush with extra virgin olive oil. Season the slices with a little kosher salt.
  2. Place the sourdough slices in the preheated oven and cook until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, mix the shaved fennel with 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil and 1 tsp. of the lemon juice. Season to taste with kosher salt. Keep in the bowl until ready to serve.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, add the chopped parsley, ¼ c of extra virgin olive oil and 2 tsp. of the lemon juice. Keep in the bowl until ready to serve.
  5. Right before serving, place the herring filets, in the shallow container, in the oven. Leave in the oven just until the olive oil has melted, being careful not to heat up the herring filets, 2-3 minutes.
  6. On a platter or on individual plates, place the sourdough crostini.
  7. Gently remove the herring filets from the container. Drain some of the excess olive oil off and place them directly on top of the crostini.
  8. Spoon some of the shallot mixture on top of the herring filets, making sure to also get a generous amount of the pine nuts and raisins.
  9. Place some of the shaved fennel on top of the filets and spoon the parsley mixture on top of the fennel and around the platter or plate.

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