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Oy, Gefilte Fish? Happy Passover

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Gefilte fish from Fox & Obel (photo by Steve Dolinsky)

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is, “is there anything you don’t eat?” ‚ It used to be beets, because my parents drank/ate that purplish Manischewitz borscht product, but then I fell in love with the roasted, slightly sweet candy stripes and chioggias, and all was forgotten. At one point, I couldn’t stand liver - thanks again to the ground, mealy paste that we had during the High Holidays - but my opinion changed once I was exposed to fattened duck livers, seared on both sides, or the rich, silky smooth patés in any number of French bistros. Today, the only item that still makes me strongly reconsider moving forward with my knife and fork is gefilte fish, and I don’t think anyone is going to change my mind.

Traditionally, the Jews would combine pike or whitefish with matzo meal and some eggs to bind it. They would cook this concoction, then let it cool in its own gelatin, further solidifying the fishy mass. A dollop of horseradish gives it some contrast, and some much-needed heat. But again, most of my childhood was spent looking dissatisfied at a lone quenelle of fish during the Passover Seder, which I knew had come straight from a jar. Mmmmmmm, pickled fish. Can you see why I would have been turned off?

Today at 11 a.m. on ABC 7, I’m trying to overcome my fear, by tasting two modern (that is, homemade) versions, from a couple of local catering menus. First, I head to Fox & Obel, where they can cater pretty much the entire Passover meal. They use whitefish only for their gefilte, and the addition of a beet-infused horseradish gives it both color and bite. The texture isn’t as bad as I remember; it’s almost toothsome, but the aroma takes me right back to being 10 years old in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Over at The Goddess & Grocer, the gefilte fish consists of pike and whitefish, and this version has more character, more heft. I liked the texture on this one, and while it’s not something I would ever crave, I could certainly see myself eating it at a‚ ceremonial Passover table, if not serving it to guests.

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