Jocko Marx’s Herring Potatoes

Straight in with a bullet to NUMBER ONE in the Silver Screen Suppers Hit Parade, is Jocko Marx with his Herring Potatoes.  I really think that is the most delicious dinner I have made in over 9 years of cooking film star recipes. It’s one of those recipes you look at and think, “this could be good, this could be bad, who knows?”

Who is Jocko Marx?  Well, supposedly one of the four Marx Brothers…  That’s what it says in this 1933 cookbook…

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Can you read it OK?  Basically, the source of the awesome Herring Potatoes recipe is listed as “Jocko Marx – 4 Marx Brothers”.  Well, as far as I knew the 4 Marx Brothers were Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo.  So who on earth is Jocko?  I decided to do some investigation…

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I asked my ex Vic, a big Marx Brothers fan who lives in my building, what he knew about Jocko Marx when he came round to watch an episode of The Rockford Files.

 “There is no Jocko Marx” was his unequivocal reply, although he did say that there was a Marx Jocko, which is where the confusion may lay.  He’s a climbing monkey apparently…

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Another fan of the Marx Brothers, my much admired friend Matthew Coniam, author of the Marx Brothers Companion and proprietor of the much missed Movietonews blog says the following.

The Annotated Marx Brothers

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“Jocko Marx was a new one on me, and a Google yielded only one reference: a jokey comment on a YouTube video… Other than to stress that there definitely isn’t one (!), I have nothing more useful to add… where did you come across it?
 
There’s actually a lot of food connections to the Marx Brothers. There’s some lovely stuff in Harpo’s autobiography Harpo Speaks about their childhood in the New York tenements. By profession their father was an incompetent tailor, but a wizard at producing mouth-watering meals from virtually nothing. He also talks about an establishment called Max’s Busy Bee, where they would very occasionally partake of delicious strawberry shortcake. Charlotte Chandler’s memoir of Groucho in old age, Hello I Must Be Going, details how his eating habits and preferences were largely unchanged since those days: his addiction to pumpernickel and sweet butter was lifelong. 
 
Of their screen characters, Chico is the most food-oriented: he often speaks longingly of juicy steaks and french fried potatoes, but all the Brothers are shown to have ferocious appetites; there are a couple of great scenes showing frenzied communal eating.
 
Food references come up in several of their lines and jokes; that fruit flies line is one you often see quoted but I’m not sure how authentic it is.”
 
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Well whoever he was, Jocko has furnished me with my new all-time favourite spinster’s supper.  This was absolutely DIVINE.  I was licking my lips for about an hour after I’d eaten it.  I am not joking.  Probably longer.

I did – I admit – deviate from the recipe slightly, but I’ll tell you what I did, and if you are an umami addict, give it a go with the pickled herring.  AAAAAAAAARRGGGG!

I followed Jocko’s recipe very closely (whoever the dickens he might be) but used a jar of ABBA pickled herring in dill that I got from the Scandi Kitchen rather than fresh herring. 

herring with dill

This was the only deviation really.  I cannot vouch for what will happen if you do it with anything else, but here’s how I did it, and if you like the sound of pickled herring with potatoes and onion, you are going to love this.

Usually at Silver Screen Suppers Towers I follow the recipe as closely as I can with no modifications / ingredients swaps or substitutions.  But what the hell, nobody knows who this guy is!  I think his recipe is fair game for a TINY substitution.

My version of Jocko Marx’s Herring potatoes – serves 2 or one spinster for dinner x 2 nights

I buttered my lovely new casserole dish from Cha Cha Vintage, slightly worried it wouldn’t survive my oven, but it did!  Well, it’s not exactly new, but I’ve been too scared to use it…

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I scooped out half of the herring from the jar of Abba and lay it on the bottom of the casserole dish.  I boiled two “mucky potatoes” cut into quarters (ever since I went to see Heather’s mum Frannie in Lincoln and she put this on her shopping list, I now try to only buy “mucky potatoes”),  They TASTE of something…

Then I sliced them up and sliced up two fairly small onions.

I layered 1/2 the potatoes on top of the herring and then put slices of about one onion on top on top of that.  Salt and peppered them (about one big pinch of Maldon sea salt crunched up a bit) and put a couple of bay leaves in.  Then I spooned out the rest of the herring, put that on top, then the rest of the potatoes and onion.  I looked at the delicious dill infused STUFF left in the ABBA jar and decided I couldn’t waste it.  I poured it over everything, then sprinkled over 2 tablespoons of crackers left over from Christmas that I’d blitzed in the mini food blitzer, and put some little bits of butter on top.  I bunged it in the oven.  350 degrees F, about 175 degrees C and gas mark 4. for 1 hour.

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For inexperienced cooks  I would say this.  If you have a jar of ABBA pickled herring, a couple of cooked potatoes, a couple of onions and a bit of butter, just whack it all in a casserole, crunch up some crackers for the top and see what happens. 

I feel a bit like I have invented a foodstuff.  Jocko (whoever the hell he is) didn’t specify pickled herring but Åh min godhet, there are a million different types of pickled herring you could try out for this.  If you like fish, and you like pickles, I can almost guarantee you’ll like this.

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Thank you mystery man…

mystery man

2 Responses to Jocko Marx’s Herring Potatoes

  1. Greg 16 Mar, 2015 at 9:31 am #

    This recipe totally turns me off (even given my Norwegian heritage…I just can’t do pickled fish) , but your story is fascinating! Hilarious…the mystery of Jocko Marx! Another great read!

    • Jenny 18 Mar, 2015 at 8:04 am #

      Aw, thanks Greg. It is indeed a mystery about Jocko…

      I think that pickled fish is a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. One of my chums has tipped me off to something he thinks I’ll like that is a bit similar – Jannson’s Temptation. I’ve got a David Niven recipe for this so coming soon…

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