“Passover is right around the corner, so I was thinking about making a vegan gefilte fish this year.”
Silence. The line went dead. After a few beats, I wondered if the call had dropped altogether, until my mom hesitantly, quietly responded, “…Why?”
My mother herself is a fair weather gefilte fish supporter, serving it dutifully every time tradition mandates. I get the impression that it’s more about ritual, symbolism, and classic Jewish guilt than genuine enjoyment, but for all that, her tolerance for the processed white fish dumpling is far greater than most. Even she couldn’t fathom why I’d want to revisit the reviled appetizer, and at such great effort.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it’s the challenge of creating something that is otherwise unattainable, of trying something new and novel, or my general propensity towards all things bizarre.
Let’s be honest, gefilte fish is an outlandish dish. They’re like poached pescaterian meatballs, spiked with the sharp bite of horseradish and bitter herbs. You can generally find them packed in shelf-stable glass bottles, which seem to live indefinitely in the back of your bubbe‘s pantry, like a long-forgotten science experiment gone awry. To make matters worse, because cooking is verboten on the Sabbath for strictly kosher households, it’s typically served cold.
Starting from scratch with plants, we can resuscitate this Franken-fish with just a bit of patience and perseverance. Potato and cauliflower provide the substance and texture with a fairly neutral taste, bolstered by caper brine for a subtly oceanic, saline essence. Olive brine or simply very salty water could do in a pinch, but something about the faintly lemony, pleasingly metallic taste of capers really suits the original inspiration.
There are plenty of similar interpretations on the internet, but what sets my fish-free gefilte apart is the genuine coating in aspic, reminiscent of the gelatinous goop that comes within the jar. Slicked with the sheen of agar, this extra layer locks in moisture, freshness, and an added veneer of savory flavor.
No one would be fooled by my finless imposters, even amidst the cacophony of colors on the average Seder plate; these gefilte are far and away the superior option. Banish those fetid, mummified monstrosities in the closet, and try something better than merely edible this year.
- 1 Large (1 Pound) Idaho Potato, Peeled and Diced
- 1 Cup Cauliflower Florets
- 2 Tablespoons Caper Brine
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Ground Golden Flaxseeds
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Onion Flakes
- 1/4 Teaspoon Celery Seeds
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 2 Cups Vegetable Stock
- 1 Teaspoon Granulated Sugar
- 1 Medium Carrot, Peeled and Thinly Sliced
- 2 Teaspoons Agar Agar Powder
- 2 Tablespoons Water
- Green Leaf Lettuce
- Fresh Parsley
- Horseradish (Optional)
- To make the gefilte fish, start by placing the cubed potato and cauliflower florets in a medium saucepan. Add water to cover, place over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Cook until the vegetables are fork-tender; about 15 minutes. Drain very thoroughly and return the pan to the stove. Mash roughly over the lowest heat to remove any excess water.
- Turn off the heat and add the caper brine and olive oil. Mix well to incorporate before sprinkling the flaxseeds all over. Stir vigorously to make sure there are no clumps remaining before introducing the onion flakes, celery seeds, and black pepper. Mix well to combine.
- Scoop out about 1/4 cup of the mixture per fish, shaping the mounds into small oval shapes about the size of large eggs. Use lightly moistened hands if it's too sticky to handle with ease. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, spacing the pieces about 1 inch apart.
- Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Fill a standard loaf pan with water and place it on the bottom rack. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat, place the sheet pan of gefilte fish in the oven and close the door. Let steam for 20 minutes.
- Cool completely before chilling in the fridge for at least an hour.
- To make the aspic, combine the stock, sugar, and carrot in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and let cook for 5 minutes. In a separate dish, mix together the agar and water, making sure there are no clumps, before adding the mixture to the saucepan. Vigorously whisk to incorporate and cook for another 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer
- Dip each gefilte fish into the aspic mixture using a slotted spoon, letting the excess drip off. Give each piece two or three coats in all, setting a piece of carrot on top in the final layer for garnish. Return the pieces to the sheet pan, and chill until ready to serve.
- To plate the gefilte fish, set each piece on fresh lettuce leaves and top with fresh parsley. Serve with grated horseradish on the side, if desired.
To prepare in advance, the gefilte fish can be stored in the fridge after steaming for up to three days. Once coated in aspic, leftovers can be kept for 1 - 2 days kept in an airtight container.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 133Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 153mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.