“Bland, intractably beige, and (most unforgivably of all) suspended in jelly, the bottled version seemed to have been fashioned, golem-like, from a combination of packing material and crushed hope.” From an article about gefilte fish by Rebecca Flint Marx in The New Yorker (October, 2016)
The above is eloquent testimony to the bad reputation of gefilte fish – a downhome, humble staple at the Jewish holiday table.
Liz Alpern, among countless others including me and my mother, admits to agreeing with this negative opinion. The reasons: an unappetizing look and underwhelming taste of the ubiquitous kind of gefilte fish, especially the bottled variety.
All that changed for Alpern when she and fellow Brooklynite Jeffery Yoskowitz decided to write a book about Jewish food and, in particular, the much-maligned gefilte fish.
The result: an amazing tome called “The Gefilte Manifesto” chock-full of well-tested recipes and accompanying compelling stories They also operate an online business called The Gefilteria selling their own brand of gefilte fish.
I became a convert when I made impeccable matzoh balls from their manifesto and, more surprisingly, tried their brilliant recipe for gefilte fish baked in a loaf pan. It’s a cinch to make, delectably moist, delicately toothsome and, best of all, nothing like your usual bland, unappealing, jelly-coated gefilte fish!
Here’s the recipe:
This deliciously moist and delicately flavoured version – one of three in The Gefilte Manifesto – looks as good as it tastes. I especially love the aroma and taste of fresh dill.
If there are any bones left in fillets, remove larger ones by hand but don’t fret about the smaller ones since they’ll be pulverized in the food processor. You can buy your fish pre-ground from a fishmonger (usually a Jewish fishmonger) to ensure all the bones are removed, but try to cook your fish that day since ground fish loses its freshness faster.
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
12 oz/350g whitefish fillet, skin removed, coarsely chopped
1¼ tbsp vegetable or grapeseed oil
1 large egg
2 tbsp coarsely chopped watercress (or spinach)
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh dill
1 tsp kosher salt
¹/8 tsp freshly ground white pepper
1 tbsp granulated sugar
Horseradish relish, store-bought or homemade, for serving
Serve with horseradish relish.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.