Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pesach - gefilte fish - cooking with Dad

The more I live on this earth, the more I think about the people that are no longer with me. In general Pesach – ‘zman heruteinu’ – G-d took us out of Egypt. But apart from His outstretched arm, there were people that had the courage to choose between right and wrong and move toward the unknown and wonderful.

Pesach – our own ‘zman heruteinu’ – was only possible because people had the courage to stand up to the powers much bigger than themselves with no knowledge of any possibility of their success. Without them the Iron Curtain might have still be up.

My own Pesach was only possibly because of a certain person that took his family out and gave this exodus his own last strength.

My grandmother, who celebrated Pesach her own way that somehow connected this Holiday with all her relatives gone in the fires of Babiy Yar, used to make this staple of Jewish Holiday cooking the way that no one did. Hers was, certainly, the best.

My dad, who is almost the age of my grandma when she last made this, comes to my apartment so that just the two of us can make her real Gefilte fish using my kosher-for-pesach meat grinder that I keep just for this once-a-year occasion. This turns to be, probably our most sharing one-to-one talk time. I look at him so strong and so weak at the same time and I think of my childhood, when he was the center of my universe and I feel that my universe has made a full turn and he is right there in the center, again. Some things I can’t even say to your face, but I hope that by some magic waves of the internet and additional Passover ‘nes’ my love and worry for you will reach you and my plea for your long and healthy (as much as possible) life will reach G-d.

So this old recipe is for all of you, my beloved – the ones gone to the world that we can’t fathom and the ones that are with me – let this Pesach be our new ‘zman heruteinu’ – freedom from negative emotions, freedom from guilt, from pain and sorrow. Every loss means something; we just need to figure out – what.

The sea upfront, the Pharaohs’ Army is charging behind
People are frightened. Which death is quicker? But wait…
The Sea has parted. Freedom?

About 4 pounds of fish bones, skin and trimmings
2 pound carp fillet
1 pound salmon fillet
1 pound white fish fillet
2 big onions
2 beets
2 carrots
¼ cup matzo meal
2 eggs lightly beaten
Salt (about 3 tablespoons) and black pepper

Wash all the fish thoroughly. Peel the onions and wash the skins. Wash, Peel and slice the beets and carrots. Dice one onion and fry it a little bit in olive oil. Slice the other onion.

Grind the fish meat two times with the fried onion to make the smooth mixture. Add eggs, a bit of water, salt, pepper, matzo meal and form small cutlets.
My grandma used to put the cutlets back into the skin, but I guess both my dad and I are already of a newer generation and we don’t do this anymore. We just form the fish cutlets and fry them a bit in the olive oil.

Meanwhile put all the fish trimmings, a bit a beets, carrots and onion into the big pot. Add the fig cutlets and alternate by the layers of vegetables. Once all the fish is gone, carefully add water to cover the mix and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling turn the heat to low and simmer for a little less than two hours.

Cool completely and get the cutlets out on a platter.
Serve with chrain (horseradish)

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