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Suddenly making gefilte fish - am I an idiot?

So there I was yesterday, in the Kosher for Passover section of the supermarket, and suddenly I decided that I was going to make gefilte fish for the seders. I have no idea why I am driven to do this mad thing when I already have lots to do...2 seders, 20-ish people at each...insanity. I bought the pre-ground fix mixture - some each of the whitefish mixture and the salmon/whitefish mixture. And now the fun begins. Or, at least, soon.

Does anyone have any words of wisdom for me? I have fish heads for the broth. Favourite recipe? I have 3 lbs. of fish.

Should I tell my husband to call the asylum and just book me in?

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  1. No, you're not certifiable! When I get home this evening I will forward you my Grandma's recipe. I don't make it every year, but sometimes I even make it when it'snot holiday time... because it is sooooooooo good!

    Actually we like it for a light supper in the summertime...

    12 Replies
    1. re: ChefJune

      Would you mind very much posting the recipe for the rest of us? I stumbled into my own gefilte-fish making commitment this year, despite never having made it before. My grandmother's was amazing, but her recipe wasn't written down, and I never managed to ask her about it while she was still with us.

      (I'm asking because you said you'd "forward" the recipe rather than post it, so I'm thinking perhaps you're just sending it to the OP privately?)

      1. re: chloe103

        I will never, ever make gefilte fish again. I couldn't get the fish smell out of the house for the whole 8 days. Considering that I was making everything else for the Seder from scratch it took far too much of my time and made a huge mess to boot. And I don't even like fish. I understand it tasted pretty good, though. Just not good enough to do again.

        I think it's one of those things you have to do at least once, just to say you've done it.

        1. re: rockycat

          Ok - this is good to know. I happen to have an outdoor burner beside my barbecue...this might just be the time to use it. If I do all the preparation inside, I can just simmer the gefiltes outside. Probably will attract every raccoon in the neighbourhood.

          By the way, I was going to make it with fish stock (I bought fish heads). I assume it would be smart to do that part outside also.

          1. re: Nyleve

            If you can do it outside, that certainly will reduce the indoor fish smell :) But I guess I'm a dissenting opinion, that it isn't necessarily prohibitively bad-- just make sure you use a really big pot so you can keep the lid on tight, don't open it a lot. Unless you really hate the smell of fish, you're fine.

            A grandmother trick is to keep a pot of boiling water with cinnamon going at the same time--I don't usually do this (I think I dislike the smell of cinnamon more than I dislike the smell of fish), and I don't even know that it helps that much-- just passing along the traditional wisdom :) (Keeping a couple candles burning is also supposed to help, but I really don't think it does)

            1. re: another_adam

              I live in a big old house with a wood cookstove in the kitchen, so there's lots of air movement and usually a fire going. I don't find odours linger much. But I would prefer to avoid seriously sickening smells a couple of days before our house fills with guests. If the weather is nice, I'll cook the gefilte fish outside.

            2. re: Nyleve

              You know racoons who aren't Jewish won't eat it! . One year I gefilted myself into oblivion and I was so particular about who I let eat it (I feared no one would appreciate it enough) that a lot of it went bad.I will never make it again either but you gotta channel your bubby making gefilte once in your lifetime.

              Gefilte means "stuffed." I lately read an old German cook book that had everything from gefilted turnips to gefilted whole cabbages.

              1. re: missclaudy

                The traditional way it's made in my part of Europe is stuffed back into the pike skin - with the backbone! - and poached like that. It's way way too potchkey for me. But I need to have my head examined as well since I'm making from scratch gefüllte fish for only three people. Meshugene!

                1. re: missclaudy

                  That's very funny. About 1/3 of our Monday seder guests are not Jewish. I have warned them about the gefilte fish already and have given them my full permission not to eat it if they don't want to. More for us - mwah ha ha. On the other hand...I am seriously considering spiking the maror with wasabi. Would that be wrong?

                  1. re: Nyleve

                    Much commercially available wasabi is actually just horseradish with dyes and preservatives, so why not?? In our house, we like it with karashi (Japanese style mustard) :)

                    1. re: Nyleve

                      Sounds delicious. Add to this that they are shutting off our water tomorrow for sewer repairs and the fish has to be made tomorrow. It's just nuts.

                      I've been thinking about putting cilantro in my fish. And has anybody used just egg yolks, not the whites? I have so many left from all the macaroons I made today.

                      1. re: teamkitty

                        I'd say the egg whites are pretty important for keeping the fish light (in fact, I use mainly whites, beaten a bit, with just one yolk)
                        It's the passover dilemma, so many recipes calling for whites. I use the yolks for sauces (for example, a hollandaise sauce for asparagus), or for a "pudding-type" cake. Apparently you can stabilize yolks with sugar or salt and freeze them for later uses, too, but I've never thought to do it when I actually have extra yolks around.

                        Cilantro sounds nice-- it sounds like Chinese or Vietnamese style fish balls, I think it would make me want bean sprouts and pho noodles with them :)

                        1. re: another_adam

                          Thanks, another_adam. Do you have a suggested recipe for a "pudding-type" cake? I usually make nut torte - and it's supposed to rain between now and Pesach, so I'm not optimistic about that turning out.

          2. If your fish is already ground, then no, this is no biggie! (Hacking up all that fish is what makes a huge project and mess)
            Recipes vary as to whether you should beat your egg whites or not--I'd say definitely do it, especially for the salmon mix. (I made salmon gefilte fish last year, and sort of regretted it-- the texture was a bit denser, and the flavor overpowered the more subtle whitefish) Another tip is that you should boil a pot of water and once you've mixed up the ingredients, drop a little spoonful into the water and let it cook so you can taste for seasonings. Nothing worse than cooking up tons of lovingly shaped fish balls only to find out at the seder that they were bland from not enough salt or whatever. Some recipes put sugar, but I'd avoid it (totally a personal matter of taste, though)

            If you're lucky enough to have a fishmonger that can also sell you skins, you can wrap up the cooked balls in a strip of skin and fry it so it's crispy on the edges-- I never bother with this any more, but always dream of my mother's...

            1. Here's the good thing about your undertaking -- if you're anything like me, you'll NEVER find yourself tempted to cook gefilte fish again. The smell in the kitchen will be lingering and unforgettable. But you have to do it once in a lifetime to know not to do it again.

              These days I "doctor" the jarred variety -- I simmer it for about 20 minutes it in the broth from the jar to which I add a little water, sliced carrots, celery and onions. That's homemade enough for me.

              1 Reply
              1. re: CindyJ

                Make sure that you shake the pot periodically while you are cooking the fish, otherwise they can stick together and cause a big mess, especially if you are using salmon. I always cook my gefüllte fish in fish stock, heavy on the parseley.

                1. re: vicarious

                  Thank you - I love that piece. I actually have it as a picture book. The photo of the bubbe on the telephone is priceless.

                2. I enjoyed making my gefilte fish last year. They came out very nice. Big round fluffy balls. I wasn't able to get a mix of fish because I got to the store late in the game, so I think they would have tasted a bit better if there was a mix. I've never used salmon in the mix, although that sounds good to me and I've seen others on here mention using salmon. I will check at home to see if I can find the recipe I used last year.