For favorite Passover recipes from my kitchen, please see Essential Passover from Scratch: Recipes and Stories from My Mother’s Kitchen
I couldn’t end Passover without posting about our gefilte fish and horseradish. I’ve never eaten jarred gefilte fish. My mother and grandmother always made it fresh, so now my sister and I try and duplicate their efforts. This is the batch of 46 pieces that we made this year.
Gefilte fish are fish patties, served cold and topped with prepared horseradish. It’s made from a combination of white fish and pike. We modern women will sometimes include some salmon. The proportions are variable, but 2/3 white fish to 1/3 pike would be a good place to start. If you have a good fish counter at your grocery store, ask if they can take the fish off the bones, grind it, and then give all of it back to you — fish bones, head, tail and all.
Step 1: Make the yuch. Yiddish for broth, the “u” is pronounced with the sound of the “ou” in the word “would.” Make the yuch by boiling up all of the fish bits — skin, bones, head, tail — with an onion, some celery and carrots. The end result is a fish stock. After draining out the yucky stuff, you’re left with the yuch.
Step 2: Mix up the fish. Take the ground fish and mix in egg, matzo meal, white pepper, salt and grated carrot. Mix this up in your mixer. Add just enough water to the mix for it to be a consistency that is slightly wetter than hamburger meat.
Step 3: Shape the patties. With a bowl of water near your pot of simmering stock, wet your hands, form the patties and then gently place them in the stock. Cover and let cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer to a container to let cool. You can freeze the stock and use it later for bouillabaisse or other fish-based soups.
The finished product on our Seder table.
Making the horseradish was quite an experience! We started with a fresh horseradish root, peeled it, chunked it and put it in the food processor with some apple cider vinegar, some sugar, a little salt and a can of beets. Add and taste, add and taste. It did, as they say, clear our sinuses.
Here’s the recipe for gefilte fish:
For the fish
Order 5 pounds whole fish*, to include whitefish, trout, and northern pike, filleted and ground, with approximately the following breakdown:
- 2½ pounds whitefish
- ½ pound trout
- 2 pounds northern pike (carp or salmon may also be used)
- 1 carrot, grated
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbs. matzo meal
- ¼ tsp. white pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/3 c. water
- For the broth
- fish trimmings
- 2 onions
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 carrots
*When you order the fish, ask to have it ground. Also ask that they reserve the tails, fins, heads, bones and skin—you will need all to make the fish broth.
1. Prepare the fish: If the fish store is not able to grind the fish, remove it from the bones and grind it in a food processor or meat grinder. Even after it’s filleted (by either you or the fish store) there will be fish left on the bones, so scrape off as much as you can, and combine with the rest of the ground fish.
2. Make the fish broth: Peel the onions and cut in half, peel the carrots and celery and cut them in half. Place the vegetables along with all of the fish trimmings into a large pot, and cover with about 4 quarts of water. Add 2 Tbs. of salt. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 2–3 hours.
3. When the broth is nearly ready, prepare the ground fish: In a large bowl, or mixer, combine all of the ground fish, the grated carrot, the eggs, matzo meal, pepper, salt, and water. Mix well.
4. Strain the broth: Set a strainer inside a large pot. Pour the fish broth through the colander to strain out the solids. Set aside the carrots; toss the rest of the solids. Bring the broth back to a simmer.
5. Prepare the fish patties: Fill a small bowl with water—you will use this to wet your hands as you work. Take about ½ cup of fish mixture into the palm of your hand, and form into a smooth, oval patty. Place gently into the simmering broth. After all patties are made, cover the pot and cook gently for 45 minutes. Remove from broth into airtight container, cool and serve with slice of cooked carrot and a dollop of ground horseradish.