Hasidic gefilte fish for Rosh Hashannah
Hasidic gefilte fish for Rosh Hashannah. Photo by Eyal Toueg
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Amalgamation is a sign of immigrant cuisine. In the move from one land to another and from one culture to another, the fine nuances and variations that distinguished one recipe from another were blurred. Gefilte fish, like cholent or kugel, could be the subject of a thick tome all by itself. In every region and every community in the large geographic area of Eastern Europe, the Jews had a different way of making gefilte fish. In Odessa it was made with fried onion; in Lithuania, sugar was not used; Hasidim added a touch of sweetness (and substituted almond flour for matza meal on Passover). The origin of this culinary invention, which offers a simple but brilliant upgrade in terms of taste, lies in a particularly strict interpretation of halakha.

The following recipe makes 12-15 pieces.

Ingredients:

For the stock:
heads, bones and skin of 2 to 2.5 kilos carp
3 large onions, peeled and rinsed
3 medium carrots, peeled
3 parsley roots
1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp whole allspice
1 bunch parsley
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 liters water

For the stuffing:
1 kilo carp filet
3 heaping tbsp almond flour (ground blanched almonds)
4 bitter almonds, ground
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
2 whole onions that were cooked in the stock
2 tbsp sugar
1 carrot that was cooked in the stock
1/2 cup fish stock
2 eggs

Fish for stuffing
One whole carp, skeleton removed (have the skeleton removed whole and leave the fish whole ), or one carp cut in slices.

Directions

For the stock, combine all ingredients except for the bunch of parsley and bring to a boil. Lower heat and skim off the foam. Simmer for an hour and a half. Turn off heat and add the parsley. Remove onions and carrots and set aside. Strain the stock and discard the bones and other vegetables. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

For the stuffing, grind the fish fillet with a meat grinder (not a food processor ). If you don't have a meat grinder, ask the fishmonger to grind it. Grind the cooked onions and carrot and the bitter almonds together with the ground fish. Knead this mixture for at least 15 minutes to release the protein (the mixture will become sticky ).

Add the almond flour, eggs, stock, salt, pepper and sugar and continue kneading until all is smoothly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Stuff the whole, boneless fish or the fish slices with this mixture. Use the remaining mixture to form flat patties. Heat the strained stock in a wide pot, carefully place the whole fish or fish slices and the patties, in the stock.

Partially cover and simmer on low heat for an hour. Remove from heat, let the fish cool in the stock, strain and refrigerate the stock and fish separately overnight. The next day, carefully slice the stuffed fish with a long sharp knife. Slice the carrots into rounds use them to garnish each piece of fish.

Serve with a spoonful of jellied stock and red horseradish.