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Pertti's Vorschmack Buenos Aires style recipe

I know that this is originally an old Russian Jewish dish. It has many variations, and it is known in Poland, too. It was taken to Finland after 1917 by Marshal Mannerheim, who had served at Russian court as officer of the last Zarina’s Chevalier Guard. It was turned to a fashionable dish in some restaurants throughout Finland, served hot for late dinners or suppers. Jews of Russian origin in Argentina do not know this dish at all. I prepare it as cold appetizer, especially in summer time in Buenos Aires. It is also one of my traditional Christmas dishes. We can get either real pickled herrings or a sweet water fish called “Lisa” that is pickled like herring. This is my version of the old Russian dish that has undergone some adaptations. I have eaten “cold vorschmack” as appetizer also in a Russian restaurant “DOUCHKA” 6, rue du Pont aux Choux, III Arr. in Paris. The owner has decorated his restaurant like a Moscow Cabaret from the XVIII century and he offers an “Odessa style vorschmack” as an appetizer. Very good.

2 lb good Argentine beef, without any fat, or rests of oven baked beef. You can use other meats like lamb, too, but most often I make it of beef only.
2-3 pickled herring fillets or 1-2 whole herrings
5 anchovy fillets (they are of Italian style in Argentina, saltier than the Swedish or Russian ones)
2 large onions
2 sour apples (Granny Smith, for example)
2 dl water
2-3 dl white wine
5-6 garlic cloves, pealed (take off the green heart if they are old)
homemade beef stock “consomme;” (cubes tend to burn into the bottom of the skillet)
black pepper from mortar
2-3 allspice corns from mortar
salt (with light hand as the herring and anchovy are already salty)
vegetable oil
measures conversion [+]

If you use rests of already baked meat, go directly to point 3. 1. If the meat is fresh, take off all the fat from it and cut it in medium size pieces, not too small. Peal the onions and cut them in 4 – 8 pieces each. 2. Put a little vegetable oil on a pizza pan of aluminium, put the meat and onions on the pan. You can insert some garlic between the pieces, if wanted. Sprinkle with little oil on the mat and onions. Bake in hot oven until slightly brown, turn over once so that the browning is equal on all sides. When ready, take the pan from the oven and let cool. 3. Put in food processor can some pieces of baked meat and onions and spoon some “consomme;” on them. Process well and when, empty the can preferably in a heavy iron kettle. Process the rest of the meat and onions; add herring fillets, anchovies, sour apples and garlic. Moisten with more consomme; so the food processor can work well. Mill in the same way all the ingredients. 4. Moisten now the blend in the iron kettle with the white wine and some more “consomme;”. Heat the kettle slowly and turn often with a wooden spoon. Add mortared peppers and check the salt (it must not become too salty). Now, turn often with wooden spoon and let simmer slowly for 5 – 6 hours, until the blend gets slightly red because of the acids of the fish and apple. Add some water, white wine and “consomme;” while the liquid evaporates. The blend must be thick like heavy cream, but not too dry. 5. Control the flavour, if more acidity is needed, add another couple of anchovy fillets that you have triturated with a fork on a small plate. Blend, taste, control de flavour all the time. Be careful with salt as it concentrates while the dish is cooking. Turn and turn with wooden spoon, so that is does not burn on the bottom. 6. If you do not have time to wait those 5-6 hours in one, cook half on the time on one day, let cool and continue the day after. 7. The vorschmack is ready, with slight reddish colour, let cool and put it in glass jars and refrigerate. 8. Serve like a “pâté” on Russian and Finnish style sour rye bread, cocktail biscuits, “grisins” or what ever with champagne and vodka. Some people pour vorschmack in and ovenproof dish and gratinate it. I like it cold as an appetizer.

Cuisine: Russian
Source: Pertti Mustonen, My own adaptation in Argentina
Recipe category: Appetizers > Fish, Appetizers > Meat, Fish-and-Seafood, Meat-Dishes > Beef

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