The Christmas Eve tradition in Tobias’ family is to have matjes herring: lightly pickled herring mixed with cold sour cream, chopped apples, and chopped onions, and served over hot boiled potatoes. It is followed on Christmas Day (which they call First Christmas, with Boxing Day being Second Christmas, to which I say how many times can our lord and saviour be born?)…ahem, followed on Christmas Day by a simple dish of game; this year we had grilled deer steaks.
Wild game is sold commercially here, which makes for a very practical solution to problems with wild boar and deer overpopulation. The high human population density, though, combined with the unwillingness of game wardens to expose passersby to stray bullets, means that when you’re out for a walk through the fields you’ll see a deer blind every two hundred yards or so. Behind Tobias’ mother’s house, there are lovely woods and fields and vineyards. At one point during a recent walk through them, I stopped and counted the deer blinds. I could see 8 from where I stood, with three more just out of view behind a hill. Although I (and, I’m sure, the deer and boar,) appreciate a clean, quick shot from nearly directly overhead rather than a messy, inaccurate shot from too far away, the overall effect is a bit creepy. There, I said it. Wooden boxes, mounted on poles, designed to provide someone with a gun a better vantage point from which to shoot something on the ground, are creepy. Especially when you’re on the ground. And if you’ve ever seen that part of Shawshank Redemption where the good-guy prisoner gets lured out to the fence and the bad-guy prison wardens shoot at him from the guard’s stations. Luckily, the German deer probably missed that part.
Last night, on New Year’s Eve, we had a few people over to eat make-your-own sushi and to watch the fireworks. The sushi was tons of fun, and would have been totally easy if we hadn’t gone a little nutso on the topping options. We had raw tuna and salmon, avocado, cucumbers, and barely-cooked carrot matchsticks. From the Japanese specialty store with the delightfully excitable proprietor, who can sell me anything when he rubs his hands together and tells me his favorite recipe in detail, we had flying fish roe, a very good frozen marinated eel that just needed a few minutes under the broiler, and miso soup with dashi, soft tofu, and seaweed. We made sesame spinach because we couldn’t remember if all of the guests ate fish. We steamed baby octopus and scallops for tako poke (a marinated Hawaiin seafood salad, tako poke is made with octopus and ahi poke is made with tuna,) and spicy scallop rolls. We poached tuna and salmon for spicy salmon rolls and ahi poke. We bought some shrimp and left it in the fridge, forgotten, until this morning. It was tons of fun, and there were a few standouts: the ahi poke and the spicy scallops. The recipe for ahi poke is at the end of this post; the recipe for the spicy scallops is totally dependant on getting your hands on good Japanese mayonnaise, Sriracha, and real flying fish roe, and if you can do that you can surely mix them together to taste and stir in some scallops.
Here’s a terrible picture of the New Year’s guests but a pretty cute picture of Frida:
And here’s a quick video that gives you some sense of the fireworks madness that is Germany at 12:01 on the first day of the year. Sadly, this video was taken well after the peak of the fireworks; happily, it is proof that we now know how to use the camera to take a video and that it took us less than 24 hours to figure it out.
Ahi Poke (Hawaiian Tuna)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
- 1/4 cup sliced green onions, white and green parts
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 tsp sesame seeds (white are fine but toasted black sesame seeds are delicious here)
- 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 pound raw tuna in large dice (pregnancy-friendly variation: lightly poach the tuna chunks in simmering water to which you’ve added a splash of white wine, a few peppercorns, and a bay leaf)
Chill for an hour or two. Serve alone or with avocado as an appetizer, or as a light meal on top of rice, or, as brother George recommends, as a delicious filling for sushi rolls. You can add raw sweet onion, cucumber, avocado, macadamia nuts, chopped chilis, etc. to the mixture but I think it’s pretty dynamite as is. Because not evey day provides an opportunity to slap your fishmonger in the face by dropping his beautiful, precious, sashimi-grade tuna into boiling water, I will be trying this with canned tuna in the near future and will report back!