Post-modern Gefilte fish (or Gefilte fish in 30 mins)

Yes, you can indeed make delicious gefilte fish in 30 mins.

Yes, there are some shortcuts.

No, this is not your classical gefilte fish, more like the traditional gefilte fish recipe deconstructed.

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Gary is famous for his gefilte fish, so notable that my relatives presented his willingness to grind raw fish as exhibit A; proof that he would be an excellent husband. In fact it was not until I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Yoskowitz, the proprietor of the Gefilteria before I was aware of another man who was so passionate about gefilte fish.

But the making of authentic gefilte fish is a laborious process. First off, the designated fish, carp etc has to be special ordered (I remember when I realized that gefilte didn’t refer to a fish species!), the fish heads and bones have to be boiled to make the jellied stock, one has to be fastidious about picking out all the small bones, assembling the special contraption for grinding the fish and so forth.

With all the demands on our time, it is no surprise that making gefilte fish hasn’t happened too frequently. And yet, perish the thought that we would eat the type that comes in jars. So it was that one day I started thinking about how gefilte fish became such a classic and the rationale for using carp. My understanding is that the recipe is generally thought to be the result of enterprising Jewish women developing a Shabbat-friendly dish with a readily available local ingredient; aquaculture being in wide practice in Eastern Europe. I remember my grandpa telling me about how his mother complained at coming to the industrial Britain in the years before his birth in 1905 and how much she missed the farm life in Russia with her beautiful pond.

Today, the most widely available fish is farmed salmon. To stay true to the spirit of gefilte fish in the sense of a dish made with the cheapest available fish I decided to use salmon. I also incorporated a milder white fleshed fish which is traditional for gefilte fish. This was branzini, which happened to be available at Wegmans and they will fillet the fish for you (see my previous post regarding availability of kosher fish in Ithaca).

The features that make this recipe so quick are first the starting point of using fish fillets (no deboning), second using the food processor (makes quick work of chopping), and third eliminating the jellied stock (believe me, you won’t taste a difference). Let’s get to the recipe.

gefilte fish ingredients

Once the ingredients are assembled and the greens washed, the recipe goes super quick.

  1. Before starting prepare a large mixing bowl and a pan of salted boiling water.
  2. Process the dill, onion, green onions, parsley in the food processor until finely chopped. Keep an eye on this, just a few pulses should be sufficient, you don’t want the mixture to turn to paste. Remove from the food processor into the large mixing bowl and combine with the eggs.
  3. Process fish fillets in the food processor. Careful to not over process, you are looking for a minced texture, not mush. I did this in two batches.
  4. Mix the minced fish with the remaining ingredients. Make rounded balls with about one heaped tablespoon of the mixture and drop into the boiling water. Boil for 10-12 mins. The gefilte fish balls increase ~25% in volume during cooking, make sure your pan can accommodate this expansion.

Useful note: This recipe makes a large quantity and these gefilte fish freeze well.

fish dish

For the optimum gefilte fish experience, you cannot beat the authentic accompaniment and I highly recommend home-made chraine. I will go through this recipe in another post but there are no short-cuts to its production, home-made chraine takes longer to prepare than the gefilte fish. But it’s definitely worth it. In the meantime, בתיאבון!

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