Gefilte Fish

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Gefilte Fish

Ronnie Davis and Liz Neumark

Most of you already know that I come from three generations of kosher caterers, and I was raised working in a kosher kitchen. One of the greatest joys of my childhood was helping out on the Jewish holidays. I remember running up and down the dark wooden stairs, giving clients their orders of gefilte fish and other holiday delights.

Over the years, the recipe has changed slightly, but it has remained basically the same. Last year we wrote about my family recipe for gefilte fish, however it has been many years since I actually made it myself …so this year, Liz and I decided to actually make it together. The Holidays mean spending time with family and friends as well as celebrating the traditions that bind us. 

The recipe is below for those brave enough to try. Remember, when it comes to Jewish cooking, I have never measured anything in my life. Gefilte fish like all traditional foods…it must be made with touch, feel and love.

Ingredients:

  • 8-9 pounds whole carp, pike or whitefish, and pollock (can use cod instead of pollock) filleted and ground* 

  • 4-5 quarts cold water

  • 1 large turnip, peeled (white is best but yellow will also work)

  • 1 medium sized parsnip, peeled

  • 6-8  Spanish onions, peeled 

  • 4-6 stalks of celery, cut in 1/2 inch pieces

  • 6-8 medium carrots, peeled 

  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar (optional) 

  • 4 to 6 large eggs 

  • 3-4 tsp freshly ground pepper (to taste) 

  • 3-4 tsp of kosher salt (to taste)

  • 6-8 bay leaves

  • 1/3–1/2 cup matzo meal

*Ask your fishmonger to grind the fish. Ask him to save the tails, skin, fins, heads, and bones. Be sure he gives them all to you.

Method:

  1. Place the reserved bones, skin, and fish heads in a wide, long fish steamer. If you do not have one, use a large sauce pan with a cover. Add the water, 2 teaspoons of salt and pepper, the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Remove the foam that accumulates.

  2. Add 3 onions along with 3 of the carrots and the celery. Cut all in ½ inch slices.  Add the sugar and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes while the fish mixture is being prepared.

  3. Place the ground fish in a bowl. In a food processor finely chop the remaining onions, the remaining carrot, the parsnip and the turnip.  (Not too fine. Do not let them liquefy.)

  4. Add the chopped vegetables to the ground fish.

  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, salt & pepper to taste, and no more than a cup of cold water and mix thoroughly. Stir in enough matzo meal to make the mixture hold its shape. Wet your hands with cold water (or a little safflower oil), and scooping up about ¼ cup of fish form the mixture into oval shapes the size of your hand, about 4-5 inches long.

  6. Gently place the fish patties in the simmering fish stock. Place them right on top of onions, skins, head, and bones and return the stock to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Taste the liquid while the fish is cooking and add salt and pepper to taste.

  7. When the gefilte fish is cooked, carefully remove from the steamer with a slotted spoon, and arrange on a small sheet pan to cool for at least 15 minutes.

  8. Strain the stock….it should gel when chilled. Serve over the fish.

  9. Serve with a sprig of fresh parsley and fresh beet horseradish.

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