My family break our Yom Kippur fast on bagels and lox. It’s classic, delicious, and simple. But by turning it into a fish board — complete with colorful vegetables, crackers, and cheeses — this simple concept becomes an enticing meal. I love it for its visual appeal and for how easy it is to put together.
Follow my step-by-step guide to building a smoked fish board to take your break fast up a notch.
This is the main event, so make sure you have something for everyone. Lox is a must, a mild whitefish spread is great with crackers, and caviar or salmon roe add a salty pop of flavor to bagels. Salmon jerky is a fun extra for snacking on, and, of course, no Jewish fish board is complete without herring. If you’re into small, oily fish (and I am!) add a tin of sardines or anchovies — they’re delicious on buttered bread. (These are great, plus their packaging is beautiful enough to display on the board.)
Lighten things up with some veggies — little cornichon pickles for crunch, sliced red onion for freshness and tang, and olives and capers for a briny hit. Refreshing cucumbers and sliced tomatoes add heft to a bagel sandwich, and lemon wedges add zing and color, as do fresh herbs like dill.
Cheese and Dairy
While fish is the focus, dairy elements are necessary to round things out. Keep it simple: a whipped cream cheese (make sure it’s room temperature so it’s spreadable) for the bagel lovers and sour cream to serve with the herring. You could experiment with flavored cream cheese (here’s lookin’ at you, scallion!) or sub creme fraiche for sour cream. A salted French butter is another great addition — schmear it on rye bread and top with sardines.
I buy fresh bagels before the fast and reheat them when I’m ready to serve — either sliced and toasted or whole, wrapped in aluminum foil. I like to get a few different options so there’s something for everyone: sesame, cinnamon raisin (great with cream cheese and lox — don’t knock it!), and the ever-popular everything bagel. For variety, add a fresh loaf of rye bread with breadsticks and butter crackers for a lighter alternative. I always include a gluten-free option like seeded crackers, too.
1. Keep things a little messy — it’s less precious and makes it easier for guests to dig in. Take a scoop out of the whitefish, scatter olives around a little haphazardly, and strew with bunches of fresh dill.
2. Don’t forget that all of the above are just suggestions. Don’t like lox? Use gravlax. Not into cream cheese? Try quark. Make it your own.
3. Compose your board in layers. Start with the fish, arrange the vegetables around it, add one or two bowls of cream cheese and sour cream, and scatter the bagels and crackers around, filling in the empty spaces.
4. Serve alongside babka, rugelach, and coffee for the ultimate break fast meal.