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Photo by: Joseph De Leo
Gefilte fish, today a prized delicacy, dates from the late Middle Ages in Germany, where it was conceived as a fish stretcher—an ancient relative of Hamburger Helper. Religious Jews embraced it as a highlight of Friday-night dinners, because it solved a spiritual dilemma: though the Talmud suggests eating fish on Friday nights, it is forbidden (because it’s considered work) to separate fish from bones on the Sabbath. We’ve found that most people who say they don’t like gefilte fish have only tasted the supermarket variety, sold in jars, which is like saying you don’t like filet mignon when you’ve only tasted beef jerky. Happily, preparing authentic gefilte fish from scratch is not an arcane skill possessed only by Jewish great-grandmothers. With today’s food processors, it’s not even especially difficult. Our recipe is sweet, in the Polish tradition; Russian gefilte fish is more peppery.
1. In a food processor or grinder, grind fish (refrigerate heads and bones for later use), 2 onions, 1 stalk celery, and half a carrot. (If you use a food processor, make sure you leave no large pieces of fish or bones; you may want to transfer the mixture, bit by bit, into a wooden bowl, and go over it vigorously with a hand chopper.)
2. Place fish mixture in a large bowl, and add eggs, sugar, salt, pepper, and corn oil, mixing thoroughly with a wire whisk. Stir in matzo meal, and continue to mix until everything is thoroughly blended. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more (longer, even overnight, is better).
3. Fill 2 large stockpots three-quarters full of water, and bring to a vigorous boil. In each, throw in half the fish heads and bones, 2 onions, half the celery, and a carrot. Divide batter into 12 patties of equal size. (Don’t worry that your batter is a little loose; it has to be that way to keep your gefilte fish light.) Transfer each patty to a large cooking spoon, shape into an oval, and very gently lower it into the boiling water. Put 6 in each pot. Lower heat and simmer for 1 ½ hours.
4. Remove fish balls and carrots from pots, and refrigerate on a covered plate. Discard everything else. Serve chilled with red and/or white horseradish. Slice carrots for garnish.
Nutrients per serving (% daily value)
Nutritional information is based on a serving size of 1 Gefilte Fish ball per serving.