Eat this Word: Gefilte Fish

gefilte fish WHAT? Something fishy. Nowadays, not many dishes require you to keep live animals in your bathtub, but that’s how most traditional recipes for this Jewish delicacy begin. The live animal was usually a carp, and you kept it flapping in the tub to ensure freshness. Once the fish was killed and gutted, you removed the flesh, chopped and seasoned it, and stuffed it back into the skin to poach. (Gefilte is Yiddish for “stuffed.”) Served chilled with a little horseradish, gefilte fish was thus an appropriate dish for the Sabbath, when heating food is proscribed by Jewish law. These days, most cooks who make gefilte fish purchase already ground carp, pike, whitefish, or a combination, season it, and shape it into balls. There are two principal styles, peppery and sweet, which are said to roughly correspond to different regions of eastern European heritage—Polish Jews make their gefilte fish with extra sugar; Russian Jews use more ground pepper. Perhaps because of its acrid smell while cooking, its somewhat fishy taste, or the fact that its ingredients are unidentifiable, gefilte fish has never been a favorite of children—this writer included—who often grow to appreciate it later in life and then regret all their mothers’ delicious homemade gefilte fish that they missed out on. WHERE? A Schmaltz to Remember WHEN? March 15, 2010 HOW? Second Avenue Deli > Miniature Gefilte Fish

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