Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House That Herring Built

Schocken Books  2013


A renaissance and appreciation of food culture has swept the nation during the last few years. Proud millennials are boxing away bachelor’s degrees for kitchen toil and expensive culinary degrees. However, the food industry was not always such a hip and sexy place to do business. Mark Federman’s chronicle of his beloved Russ & Daughters gives readers a glimpse of the hard work, immigrant hustle, and risk in starting and growing a food business.

The author, third generation owner of New York appetizing institution Russ & Daughters, left a successful law career at an uptown law firm for the world of smoked fish. After thirty years at the helm of the iconic downtown appetizing store, he has evolved yet again, into a historian and writer reflecting on his family’s century-old business. Federman weaves stories of the shop’s origin as well as tales from myriad customers of the store. Federman’s entertaining tidbits are easily sampled, like a cracker schmeared with whitefish salad.

Interspersed throughout the book are family recipes. I knew I’d have to try them in my kitchen. I headed to Russ & Daughters for some lox, Holland herring fillets, chopped liver, and bagels. You know, for research purposes. At the shop, I met the author’s daughter and current co-owner of the business, Niki Russ (Niki owns Russ & Daughters along with her cousin Josh Russ Tupper). Clearly, she has inherited her father’s skill for schmoozing. After Niki ensured that I had the right ingredients and expert advice, I headed home to prepare a Lox, Eggs, and Onion omelet. This combination of creamy eggs, salty lox, and sweet onions is easy to prepare and even easier to eat.

There are more elaborate recipes to recreate at home. But, if you’re asking me, take a trip down to the store yourself. You might even catch Federman himself behind the counter, kibitzing with store staff, customers, and signing copies of his book.

Justin Petrillo Visits Russ & Daughters

Recipe: Lox, Eggs, and Onion

Recipe republished from Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House That Herring Built by Mark Russ Federman (Schocken Books, 2013) 

Serves 4

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, cut into ¼-inch dice (about 2 cups)
8 large eggs ¼ cup whole milk or half-and-half
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 ounces lox (about 2½ slices), cut into strips (or use scraps and wings)
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and milk or half-and-half in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, but go easy on the salt, as lox is quite salty.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the butter to the skillet with the onions.When the butter has melted, pour in the eggs. Sprinkle the lox and chives evenly over the eggs. Cook, folding slowly and constantly with a rubber spatula or large wooden spoon, until the eggs are set but still slightly wet, about 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and adjust with more salt and pepper as necessary.

Social image via Flickr/Jeffrey Bary

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