Food Editor’s Note: Linda is well known for her gefilte fish. Her family wouldn’t celebrate a Jewish holiday without it. When I decided to make my first attempt at this traditional dish, I went straight to her. I was pleasantly surprised that it was not as difficult to make the fish as I had imagined, and the result is well worth the effort - much lighter and fresher-tasting than the bottled or canned variety. Thanks to Linda, my family will now have homemade gefilte fish on Pesach and Rosh Hashanah!
This recipe makes 40-50 pieces of fish, enough for one or two large seders and maybe even some left over. You need two large pots for this amount, but you can easily halve the recipe if you wish. The proportions of the different types of fish used can be adjusted to suit your tastes. Ask at your fish market for advice. I have used bass instead of pike with excellent results. Once made, the fish lasts 10-12 days in the refrigerator.
Approximately 14 lbs. of whole fish, about 6 lbs of buffel carp, 4 lbs of pike, and 4 lbs of white fish. (Have your fish market clean, fillet, and grind the fish and pack the heads and bones separately.)
For the Stock:
8 large carrots, peeled and cut in chunks
10-12 celery stalks with leaves, cut in chunks
6 or 7 large yellow onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
salt and pepper to taste
For the fish:
almost 1 large Spanish onion
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 tablespoons salt
9 tablespoons matzah meal
1 1/2 cups water
To make the stock, place the fish heads and bones in two 8-quart pots (the wider the diameter, the better). Add the carrots, celery, salt and pepper, and cover the top with the sliced onions. Slowly add water to cover the fish and vegetables. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 1/2 hour.
While the stock is simmering, make the fish balls. Place the ground fish in a large bowl. Cut the onion in chunks and pulse in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add the eggs and process until fairly smooth. Add this to the fish and gently mix. Combine the sugar, salt, and matzah meal and stir this into the fish. Slowly add the water, while mixing until light and well combined. The fish mixture should be fluffy.
With wet hands, form the fish into balls or oval portions as desired. Place on cookies sheets until ready to add to the stock. Gently place half of the fish pieces on top of the onions in each pot. Return to a boil and then cover and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Uncover and simmer an additional 1/2 hour.
Gently remove the fish to a large, flat storage dish with sides. Let cool. Remove the fish bones and vegetables from the stock or strain it into another pot (you can combine the stock from both pots at this point). Bring the stock to a boil and let it boil until it is half the amount you have to begin with. If you’d like carrot slices to garnish the fish when served, add the slices now for 5-10 minutes and then remove them to the storage dish. You can also reserve some of the stock before reducing, and freeze it for future use in a fish soup or chowder.
Once the stock is reduced, let it cool and pour over the fish. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve cold or at room temperature on a platter with the carrot slices.
Linda Polivy lives in Newton with her husband and four children. She is a gefilte fish maven and an all-around terrific cook.