Sunday, April 29, 2012

Adventures in Gefilte Fish

For Passover this year I made gefilte fish. From scratch. Why? First, our family follows the Chasidic custom of not eating wet matzoh (gebroks in Yiddush, Shruria in Hebrew). That means we don't eat matzoh balls or matzoh bri on Pesach. We also don't eat most processed/manufactured foods during Pesach for kosher and health reasons. Second, I like a little food adventure, especially in traditional food making techniques.

I started with a whole frozen carp. It came in an opaque bag, so I didn't exactly know what I was getting.  I had to start with frozen since my husband won't let me bring a live carp home and keep it in the bathtub.  You see, carp are bottom feeders and their taste is greatly improved when they are kept in clean water for a couple days.

Gefilte Fish or "stuffed fish" Is made before Shabbat (Sabbath) to avoid having to remove bones from fish on Shabbat. Most traditional gefilte recipes use a mixture of carp, whitefish, and/or pike. Some use mullet or perch. If you don't care about being traditional or saving money, I recommend using any fish you enjoy. If you use a very lean fish, you may need to add a bit of oil.

After defrosting my carp I opened my bag to find that "clean whole carp" did not mean that the guts had been removed.  I didn't really know what to do with my mystery organs, so I tossed them. I carved as much meat off the bones as I could. Then I put the head and bones in a pot with veggies and started a fish stock according to Miriam Kresh's Gefulte Fish recipe on Israeli Kitchen.

While my stock simmered I approached my pathetic heap of carp meat. I didn't get much. Luckily, I had a chunk of frozen tuna steak in the freezer. I quickly defrosted the tuna and put both in the blender with my onion, carrot and egg.  I probably should have used a little oil, since tuna can be on the dry side. And wa-la! My 100 shekel ($26) food processor worked!

You can find the full recipe on Israeli Kitchen.  I strained the stock and simmered small balls of fish for over two hours.

If you like carrots with your fish I recommend one of the following: Throw away the carrots from the stock as they will have lost most of their flavor. Add one peeled carrot in the last hour of cooking your gefilte fish balls. I was planning to do this, but forgot, so I use carrot shavings I made with my peeler.

And wouldn't you know it, my husband, my guests, and even my two year old all liked it! (Or at least ate enough to give me the impression of approval.) The real seal of approval is if my husband asks for it again next year. We shall see!

"L'shana haba'ah b'yerushalayim!"
As we say at the end of the hagadda, the book of the Passover Seder, "Next year in Jerusalem!"


  1. Well, I'm happy that my recipe gave you a base for your gefulte fish adventure - not really my recipe, but a faithful version of a very old one. And I'm impressed by your flexibility in cooking. Yashar kochech!

  2. I was really skeptical that this would work out but must admit that I loved the gefilte fish. I hope we can eat this next year (in Jerusalem).



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