My Nana’s Best Hanukkah Dish Was the One She Didn’t Make
This writer’s grandma bought her gefilte fish, but it was always a treasured part of the holiday meal.
Photo by Bobbi Lin
On our new weekly podcast, two friends separated by the Atlantic take questions and compare notes on everything from charcuterie trends to scone etiquette.Listen Now
Popular on Food52
linda A. November 27, 2021
My mother has been long gone. She was not a gourmet cook, although she perused gourmet magazines and made occasional forays to downtown Chicago, where she sourced "gourmet" canned goods, especially Le Seur petite peas. She had monthly deliveries from a kosher butcher on the Northside of Chicago. She carefully wrapped her haul, which included lamb chops, beauty steaks, beef tenderloin strips arranged in a circle and secured with long tooth picks, and the occasional brisket, in aluminum foil. My brother and I referred to the contents of her freezer as mystery meat, as nothing was labeled. But her piece de resistance was her homemade gefilte fish, made only for Jewish holidays. Filets of Lake Superior white fish and pike were loaded into a heavy metal grinder, along with onion. The fish mixture came out of the grinder in spirals with a sausage like consistency. Seasoned, with additional ingredients added--I think matzah meal, the fish was molded into ovals, and simmered with fish bones and carrots until fully cooked and the broth formed a jell upon cooling. I have made several attempts to make this delicacy, all unsuccessful. My first attempt was a recipe in the New York Times magazine, from Barry Wine of the Quilted Giraffe, a highly regarded gourmet restaurant at the time. This riff on traditional gefilte fish, involved a tea flavored broth. Needless to say, the gefilte fish had a strong tea flavor. in an attempt to correct this misstep, i dumped the broth and simmered the fish with the traditional ingredients. Other attempts were mediocre at best. I was never able to get the broth to jell. My mother also made world class blintzes that I still dream about.
VeraP November 28, 2021
Linda, to make the broth to jell, you will need gelatinous parts of fish in the pot: head, tail and fins. My grandmother put a layer of sliced beets and carrots first then the head, tail and fins. She continued with the layers of oval fish patties alternating with layers of beet and carrot slices. The broth was tasty and had a beautiful colour. The fish patties also had a nice colour. Hope that is helpful.
Join The Conversation