It was a windy chilly early spring day with the unusual occurrence of Easter, Passover and Ramadan taking place over the same weekend. We took a walk with breath taking views on the High Ledge Wildlife Sanctuary Trail in Shelburne, Massachusetts. From the top of the trail one can see the Deerfield River weaving gracefully through the hills with Mt. Greylock in the distance.
The trail climbed gently through peaceful pine woods and passed a gentle gurgling stream. In no rush, we stopped to listen to the beautiful sounds.
From the vantage point at the top, looking down almost 1,000 feet, we were treated to a cookie cutter view of the village of Shelburne Falls. To the left of the village not too far off, nestled in the hills, is our newly purchased land!
This year was our first in person Passover Seder since 2019. What a wonderful feeling to get out our fancy tableware and set the table for our guests! Although, I had lost track where the serving platters and large bowls were stored away. I needed to recalibrate how much food to prepare; I had gotten so used to cooking for two people!
One of the best things about hosting a Passover dinner again was that I could prepare Smoked Whitefish Gefilte Fish! When you mention gefilte fish to most people, there is a bit of eye rolling; we have a collective memory of cold gloppy fish that came from a jar with a strange after taste complete with an unappealing gooey gelatin. Mostly I think we ate it because we were starved after the long Seder service!
I found the recipe several years ago on Epicurious from an April 2002 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. I love it when a person tastes the dish; skeptically the first time and then a look of delight crosses their face! A request has been made for a summer version of the dish; perhaps with a glass of chilled rose wine and served with tender baby lettuce with fresh peas from a local farm stand!
Each year, a few weeks before Passover, I make my annual pilgrimage to Zabars on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to purchase the freshest smoked whitefish; one of the ingredients for the gefilte fish. I do believe this is what makes the dish so special. I always enjoy watching the rude irreverent countermen carefully slice nova and other smoked fish. As I stand in a long line waiting for my turn, Mozart is playing softly in the background accompanied by the aroma of smoked fish and freshly baked bagels in the air. I listen to the back and forth banter between the customers and countermen. Then, I take my treasure home and keep it in the freezer for a few weeks until it is time to prepare the dish. The fish can be made up to 2 days before serving.
It had been several years since I had made the recipe and I needed to read the directions carefully. This recipe is a bit of a slog, but the result is well worth the effort! I hope you will try this recipe!!
Smoked Whitefish Gefilte Fish with Lemon-Horseradish Sauce
Makes about 24 dumplings
3/4 cup thinly sliced peeled carrots
1/4 cup matzo meal
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green onions ( reserve a small amount to garnish the fish)
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 pounds mild white fish fillets (such as sole or flounder), cut into small pieces
2 cups flaked smoked whitefish (about 8 ounces), carefully boned
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup prepared white horseradish
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup mayonnaise ( I use vegannaise)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For gefilte fish:
Cook carrots in pan of boiling salted water until very tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water in small bowl. Stir matzo meal into water; let stand 10 minutes. Place carrots in processor. Heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add green onions and stir 1 minute. Add onion mixture to carrots in processor. Add matzo meal mixture; blend until mixture is pureed and smooth. Using electric mixer, beat 3 eggs and lemon juice in large bowl until foamy and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir in mixture from processor; do not clean processor bowl.
Blend fish fillets, smoked fish, salt, and pepper in same processor bowl until fish is finely chopped. Add remaining egg and blend to coarse paste. Add fish mixture to matzo meal mixture and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until very cold, about 2 hours.
Line large baking sheet with waxed paper. Using wet hands, shape 1/4 cup fish mixture for each dumpling into egg-shaped oval. Place on prepared sheet. Cover with waxed paper and chill before steaming.
Set vegetable steamer rack in large pot. Fill pot with enough water to meet, but not cover, bottom of rack. Line rack with parchment paper. Arrange 8 fish dumplings on parchment paper. Bring water to boil. Cover pot and steam dumplings until cooked through and firm to touch, about 25 minutes. Steam remaining dumplings in 2 more batches. Cover and refrigerate gefilte fish until cold, at least 6 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
Mince garlic and place in small bowl. Mix in horseradish and lemon juice. Gradually whisk in mayonnaisse. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings adding more lemon juice or horseradish to taste. Cover; chill up to 1 day. The flavors develop overnight!
Serve fish on a large platter sprinkled with remaining chopped scallions.
As is the tradition, at the end of the Seder, we opened our door to let Elijah enter. As dusk was falling we could hear the sounds of the birds tucking in for the evening and peepers calling from the pond across the street. I always imagine at this time of the year that a hungry bear enticed by the aroma of smoked whitefish gefilte fish, matzo ball soup and roast chicken may enter the door instead of Elijah! What a joy it was to be gathered around our table with dear friends once again!
AND, here is the “Tree of the Week”:
HAPPY SPRING AND STAY SAFE!