I wrote an article about my grandmother's gefilte fish that was published in the LA Times a few years ago. My cousin wrote to ask me for the recipe, and here is what I wrote him (unedited): You need 4 kinds of fish...you need carp, whitefish, pike and another kind of your choosing. It must be kosher, of course, but look for a fairly firm fish like the above. Russ Parsons changed my article to say halibut, but that's gross. Do NOT use shad...it's too firm and makes the fish hard and dry. Bubbe used mullet, but sometimes you can't get that. She never swore by the above and always told me not to buy fish if it was expensive, but she almost always bought carp, whitefish, pike and mullet in all the years I helped her make it (and she helped me, in the last few years of her life). Carp is a pain...do no less than have them clean it for you...filleting it is the biggest royal pain I've ever experienced in my kitchen. I can buy it in a place that will fillet it, but I have to pay about $4 a pound for that privilege (though there are times it's worth it)...on the other hand, if I pace myself, I can buy all the fish and fillet it myself and save a bundle. There are places in LA and the valley where I can get carp for .79 or .99 a pound...they'll clean it for that price but I can't even pay them to fillet it. Anyway, unless you have fillets in hand, allow yourself a lot of time to take care of this. Here are the proportions I recommend...these are approximate, so nothing is engraved in stone: 4 pounds of carp fillets 2 pounds each of whitefish, pike and mullet fillets Anyway, you need not only the fillets, but all the crap that goes with them, too...heads, tails, bones, skin...the works. And lastly, when I was learning how to make it from Bubbe, she taught me to taste the raw fish mixture to determine if it was seasoned properly. Those days are past. What with all the bacteria in animal products, you don't want to do that anymore...so you cook small amounts to taste and adjust seasonings. It takes a lot longer this way, but you're guaranteed to make it to the seder in good health. MY GRANDMOTHER'S GEFILTE FISH Fish heads, tails, skin and bones saved from the fillets Water Salt 8 ribs of celery, cut into 3-inch pieces 10 pounds fish fillets, ground (if the fishmonger fillets it, get him to grind it for you, too) 2 large sweet onions, chopped 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper (I also use coarsely ground) 8 large eggs 2 cups matzo meal 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced Paprika Freshly ground black pepper DIRECTIONS: Cut 2 pieces of cheesecloth large enough to hold fish heads, tails, skin and bones. Place in cheesecloth and tie closed. Put cheesecloth packets in 2 large pots and cover with water. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons salt and half of celery and bring to boil. Turn heat down, cover and simmer 2 hours. If fish has not been ground at market, grind fish in meat grinder or in small batches in food processor. Place ground fish in large bowl. Add onions, sugar, 2 T. salt, 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper and stir to combine. Lightly beat eggs and blend with fish mixture. Mix in matzo meal, 1/2 cup at a time until mixture is almost consistency of light meatballs, adding more if necessary. (If mixture becomes too hard, add a little water.) Place fish mixture in refrigerator to allow flavors to blend while fish stock is simmering. When stock is finished, remove cheesecloth packets, allowing packets to drain back into pot. Discard these packets and their contents. Transfer about 2 cups of fish stock to small pot and bring to simmer. Wet hands and form a small ball with about 1 tablespoon of the fish mixture. Place in pot, cover and cook about 10 minutes. Allow to cool 1 minute, then taste. Adjust seasonings to taste. Gefilte fish should be slightly spongy with sweet and lightly peppery taste. When seasonings are adjusted properly, with wet hands form about 1/2 cup fish mixture into slightly elongated shape. Lower fish ball into simmering stock. Repeat with remaining mixture, dividing between 2 pots. If necessary, add water to stock. Spread 1/2 carrots and 1/2 remaining celery over fish. Sprinkle with paprika and pepper. Repeat in second pot with remaining carrots, celery, paprika and pepper. Bring both pots to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Remove from heat without lifting lids. Allow to stand, covered, another 30 minutes. Serve warm or cold with warm fish stock and horseradish. Separate fish from stock before refrigerating. Gefilte fish may be reheated in stock. Makes 40 gefilte fish balls.
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