Gefilte may be the most ubiquitous fish dish in the Jewish culinary lexicon, whether we’re talking about the mass-produced, jarred versions available at supermarkets or the ready-made kind from kosher-style delis and dairy appetizer stores. But it is also the most celebratory fish dish, closely related to the haute-cuisine triumph quenelles de brochet.
Having posted Sunday that President Donald Trump would be hosting a Seder at the White House Monday evening for the first night of Passover, I was somehow not surprised to read that he was, in fact, a no-show.
As I first bit into this delicious Georgian beef stew, I was intrigued by the fact that, as with many early Jewish recipes I have found around the world, the beef, often a tough inexpensive cut, is first boiled in water until it is almost tender and then layered with flavor from onions, spices, and bright red bell peppers. No browning the meat first for this recipe! After slowly simmering the beef for a few hours, you are rewarded with a melt-in-your-mouth, silky stew—a perfect main dish for Passover or any special occasion throughout the year. And, as they say in Georgia, —ghmert`ma shegargos, or bon appétit!
For centuries, Jewish women schlepped to the fish market, choosing the best fish “by the look in its eyes” before transforming it into the quintessential Sabbath gefilte fish. Using a wooden bowl and a half-moon-shaped chopper, they cut up the fish with onions, crying a little, chopping a little, until the mix was just the right consistency, later to be shaped into ovals or balls and poached in fish broth.
Last year, the Conservative movement issued a teshuva, or ruling, that kitniyot — i.e rice, beans and legumes, traditionally avoided by Ashkenazi Jews at Passover — are now permissible. For those who feel liberated by this decision (perhaps feeling that the dictum to avoid chametz is enough of a manacle), you may also be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options that are suddenly at your disposal.