Gefilte fish from the "Jewish Alps"

A dish that would meet with Great-Grandma Minnie's approval.

By Alan Deutschman
Published April 10, 2001 6:27PM (EDT)

When I asked my mother how to make gefilte fish from scratch, she confessed that she didn't have Great-Grandma Minnie's recipe. Instead she went to her kitchen shelf and picked out her yellowed copy of "The Art of Jewish Cooking" by Jenny Grossinger, the culinary maven at Grossinger's resort hotel, a bastion of gastronomic excess during the post-World War II heyday of New York's Catskill Mountains resorts (aka the "Jewish Alps").

My parents actually spent their honeymoon at Grossinger's, where the guests would gather three times a day at large tables in a grand dining room for marathon waiter-served meals, as if they were attending a bar mitzvah. The hotel is now defunct, alas, killed off by today's young couples' strange preference for windsurfing at Club Med rather than gorging on chopped-liver appetizers. And the authoritative 1958 cookbook -- "it's as close to Grandma's cooking as you'll find," my mom said -- is out of print. But Mom still has her copy of the 18th printing from October 1969, bought soon after we moved from Queens to a Levitt tract house in the goyish wilds of central New Jersey. Its recipe for gefilte fish goes like this:

2 pounds winter carp
2 pounds pike
2 pounds whitefish
5 onions
2 quarts water
4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
3 eggs
3/4 cup ice water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons matzo meal
3 carrots, sliced

To make the jelly broth: Have the fish filleted but reserve the head, skin and bones. Combine the head, skin and bones with four sliced onions, one quart of water, two teaspoons of salt and three teaspoons of pepper. Cook over high heat while preparing the fish.

To make the fish balls: Grind or chop the fish and the remaining onion. Place in a chopping bowl. Add egg, water, sugar, matzo meal and the remaining salt and pepper. Chop until very fine. Moisten your hands and shape the mixture into balls. Carefully drop the fish into boiling stock. Add the carrots. Cover and cook over low heat for one-and-a-half hours. Remove cover for the last half-hour and cool the fish before placing it on a platter. Strain the stock over it. Chill and serve with horseradish.

Alan Deutschman

Alan Deutschman is the author of "The Second Coming of Steve Jobs."

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