Stuffed fish ( Yiddish געפֿילטע פֿיש - gefilte fish ) is a traditional Jewish fish dish consisting of fish skin stuffed with minced meat from the same fish fillet, after which the resulting stuffed fish is boiled and served sliced. They try to cook it from large breeds of fish. There are many recipes.
Served as a snack and as the main lunch dish.
Stuffed Fish in Jewish Tradition
Stuffed fish has long been one of the central places in the festive diet of European Jewry and continues to be popular among their descendants around the world. The use of this dish is usually associated with the meals of “good days”, such as Shabbat , Passover , Rosh Hashanah , but the tradition does not impose any restrictions on the use on weekdays.
To prepare stuffed fish, large fish (usually river fish) are used, with which the skin is carefully removed, gills, bones and internal organs are removed. The skin with the head and tail is laid to one side, and the fillets, cleared of bones, are ground into minced meat, which is then mixed with egg , onions (possibly fried) and breadcrumbs - in Ashkenazi cuisine with ground matzo , in other nations - usually with conventional breading . The minced meat is used to start the deferred skin, which is then carefully sutured or chipped with toothpicks, and then the whole dish is boiled and served chopped into slices, often in the form of aspic .
In the Jewish culinary tradition, this dish is mainly prepared from carp , much less often from other kosher varieties of fish, such as pike , mullet , whitefish .
In European countries, recipes with stuffed trout are common, which have gained popularity in the CIS countries.
In Israel , the preparation of stuffed fish also from salmon has spread.
Fish cutlets are prepared from the excess of minced meat, which are served together with the stuffed fish itself. In the cuisine of American Jews, starting from the end of the 19th century, the time-consuming process of removing the skin from the fish and its reverse stuffing was gradually forgotten,  and nowadays under the stuffed fish it is understood exclusively these cutlets, or “logs” of minced fish wrapped into parchment paper and cooked in fish stock, which are then cut into slices.  
Stuffed fish can be served with fish broth, garnished with boiled potatoes, carrots and beets, seasoned with horseradish . Often served in the form of aspic , in jelly from the broth, in which it was boiled. On holidays, wine can be served with fish.
Stuffed Fish and Sub-Ethnic Groups of Eastern European Jews
In the past, there were geographical differences in the recipe for cooking stuffed fish: for example, Galician Jews traditionally cooked “gefilte fish” with onions, beets and carrots in a sweet version, adding sugar to the minced meat and pepper and salt , abundantly flavored with black pepper and salt . The conditional line dividing the resettlement areas of these two groups of Jews was called by the researchers the "gefilt fish line".
Reasons for popularity and prevalence
- One of the possible reasons for the prevalence and popularity of this dish among Jews in Eastern Europe may be economic: Jewish commandments that require eating meat and wine during the main festive Saturday meal, held on Friday evening. Since Jewish families in eastern Europe were predominantly poor and had many children and therefore often could not afford to cook meat or fish in their pure form (whole piece) every week before the Sabbath, a witty way out of the situation for the poor was to cook “as if whole” fish stuffed with minced meat: thereby there was an opportunity to significantly increase the volume and nutritional value of a serving, using cheaper food - and at the same time fulfill the commandment.
- Another important motive was, of course, religious: according to the 186th and 187th commandments ( “Do not cook a kid in the milk of his mother” , Shemot 23:19, Shemot 34:26) Jews traditionally could not eat meat with dairy. Fish is not considered a meat dish, in addition, the recipe for this dish does not include the use of either meat or dairy components, and therefore “gefilte fish” is allowed for use in any circumstances and in any meal.
- Another religious reason for the popularity of stuffed fish was the ban on work on Saturday: one of the 39 forbidden actions on Shabbat is “bohrer” (“sorting”), that is, in this case, the separation of the edible parts of the dish from the inedible ones. Since river fish, which is mainly used for cooking this dish, has an extraordinary bones, it was impossible not to break this prohibition if the fish was cooked and served whole. Since the minced meat for “gefilte fish” is prepared in advance and from fish boneless, already boneless, you don’t need to choose bones from the finished dish, which sharply increases its suitability for a Saturday meal.
- ↑ 1 2 My Jewish Learning: Gefilte Fish in America
- ↑ National Geografic Blogs: Gefilte Fish: Why, Oy Why