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

Mark Russ Federman
  • Review
By – March 13, 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
Justin Petril­lo hails from Chevy Chase, MD. The city is not named for the actor, so stop ask­ing. He resides in Brook­lyn and spends time play­ing ten­nis, read­ing books by Jew­ish and non-Jew­ish authors, and scream­ing at the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins through the tele­vi­sion. He is a grad­u­ate of Emory University.

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