Gefilte Fish – Fish Cakes Simmered in Vegetable Broth

Gefilte fish in is a dish made from a poached mixture of ground deboned fish, such as carp, whitefish, or pike, which is typically eaten as an appetizer. It is dish traditionally served by Ashkenazi Jewish households. There are of course variations for the recipe (sweet, spicy) and the variations of your creativity. But before you play with the recipe, taste the real one in this recipe.

In the past, women purchased live carp for the Friday night meal on Wednesday or Thursday early morning and kept them alive in the bathtub. Traditionally, instead of cooking the fish heads with the cakes to enrich the sauce, one stuffs the heads with some fish cake mix, cooking these together with the cakes.

Gefilte Fish
Gefilte Fish

For the fish cakes:

  • 2 carp, about 2 lb ( 1 kg) each
  • ½ Ib (250 g) fillet of grouper or gray mullet
  • 3 onions
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 slices stale challah
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

For the stock:

  • 3 onions
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 potato, peeled and sliced
  • 1 celery root, peeled and sliced
  • ½ teaspoon salt plus 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Chrain, or Spicy Horseradish Sauce

    Gefilte Fish
    Gefilte Fish
  1. To make the fish cakes, have the fish monger remove the skin and bones from the fish.
  2. Reserve the heads and set aside.
  3. Peel and slice three of the onions and fry with the sliced garlic in the oil until soft.
  4. Cut off the crusts of the challah, soak in water, and squeeze out the liquid.
  5. Grind the fish together with the bread, eggs, and fried onion and garlic.
  6. Season with the sugar, salt, and black pepper.
  7. To make the stock, peel and slice the remaining onions, and place them with the sliced carrots, potato, and celery root at the bottom of a deep, wide-bottomed pan.
  8. Add 3 to 4 cups (750 ml to 1 liter) water and the salt, sugar, and black pepper.
  9. Bring the contents of the pan to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer gently.
  10. Meanwhile, to assemble, shape the ground fish mixture into flat, round fish cakes.
  11. Lay them gently, one at a time, in the simmering stock, along with the heads of the carp, and cook gently for 90 minutes.
  12. Add the juice of a lemon and tum off the heat. When the fish has cooled, transfer the fish cakes and the carrots from the stock to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate.
  13. Pour the remaining sauce through a sieve into another bowl and refrigerate.
  14. Serve cold, placing a fish cake, a slice of carrot, and about a tablespoon of sauce on individual small plates.
  15. Accompany with Chrain, or Spicy Horseradish Sauce.

Variations and idea’s

Gefilte fish may be slightly sweet or savory, so prepare the gefilte fish with sugar or black pepper. If you do, that’s considered an indicator of whether a Jewish community was Galitzianer (with sugar) or Litvak (with pepper); the boundary separating northern from southern East Yiddish has thus been dubbed “the Gefilte Fish Line”, which is nothing else then a linguistic divide between two major variants of Yiddish.

Gefilte Fish in pots. This is also gefilte fish, but not as good as the one you can create yourself.
Gefilte Fish in pots. This is also gefilte fish, but not as good as the one you can create yourself.

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