Gefilte fish

Why eat gefilte fish?

Gefilte fish is a way to make cheap fish more exciting to eat; it got started when more Jewish people were poor, and it remains a traditional Jewish food, especially for Passover – that’s why I usually make it in the spring, for Passover. Fish is super good for you, and this recipe makes delicious light gefilte fish, nothing like that slimy stuff they sell in the glass bottles at the store. Like chopped liver, you do gefilte fish ahead, so it’s one less thing to worry about when you’re putting a fancy dinner on the table.

Making gefilte fish local

We live in the Pacific Northwest, so the main cheap local fish here is salmon. So I make my gefilte fish with a lot of salmon in it. It gives the gefilte fish a lovely pink color! You should use whatever kind of fish is local, cheap, and sustainable where you live.

How to make gefilte fish:

Take two pounds of fish – cod, halibut, and salmon are good – and grind them up in a food processor. Put them in a wooden bowl with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, 1 tablespoon sugar, two onions, two eggs, 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup of matzoh meal (or you could use breadcrumbs if it isn’t Passover). Chop them all together with your chopper, and refrigerate.

Now make a stock by bringing some leftover chicken soup (or fish stock) to a boil. Add another chopped onion, 2 chopped carrots, 2 sticks of chopped celery, the juice of a lemon, the zest of the same lemon, and 1/2 cup of white wine.

Take the fish mixture out of the refrigerator and drop spoonsful into the boiling stock. The balls should be about the size of golf balls. Simmer in the stock for one hour. Then use a slotted spoon to fish out the balls (see what I did there?) and arrange the balls in a deep serving dish or a pie pan. Add 2 envelopes of gelatin to the stock, and pour the stock over the fish balls. Let it cool on the counter, then refrigerate until it is jellified (at least two hours). Serve with matzoh (if it’s Passover) or with crackers (if it’s not).

Vegetarian or vegan

Gefilte fish could just as well be gefilte veggies. It’s already largely onions, celery and carrots. Add tofu instead of the fish, or pureed cauliflower, or mashed turnips, or potatoes, or some combination of these, and it would be very similar. If you use veggies, add powdered nori or nori flakes to the balls to make them taste like the ocean, and use agar-agar instead of gelatin.

Published by Karen Carr

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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