Gefilte fish skeptics will welcome the spin given by Mexican Jews to this centuries old Shabbat appetizer. True to its meaning and makings, but poached in a spiced up tomato broth rather than fish stock.
Different than in Europe where gefilte fish is prepared with carp and hike, in Mexico it tends to be prepared with red snapper and halibut.
Gefilte Fish a la Veracruzana was a staple in my grandparents home, who used to always offer the two versions: white or traditional and red or Veracruzana. Though you were supposed to choose from one, they always had enough of both for even second helpings. And if you dared to only chose one, you would surely be asked, "Why don't you like my gefilte fish?"
Rinse the fish fillets under a thin stream of cool water. Cut into small pieces, about 2 to 3 inch, and place in the food processor. Pulse for 5 to 10 seconds until fish is finely chopped but hasn't turned into a paste. Turn fish mixture onto a large mixing bowl.
Place the onion, carrots, eggs, matzo meal, salt and white pepper in same bowl of food processor. Process until smooth and turn onto the fish mixture. Combine thoroughly with a spatula.
For Veracruz Style or Red Gefilte Fish:
Heat the oil in a large cooking pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, and let it cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring, until soft and translucent. Pour the crushed tomatoes into the pot, stir, and let the mix season and thicken for about 6 minutes. Incorporate 3 cups water, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, salt, white pepper, give it a good stir and bring to a boil.
Bring the heat down to low to get a gentle simmer, as you roll the gefilte fish patties.
Place a small bowl with lukewarm water to the side of the simmering tomato broth. Start making the patties. Wet your hands as necessary, so the fish mixture will not stick to your hands. As you make them, slide them gently into the simmering broth. Make sure it is simmering though, and raise the heat to medium if necessary to keep a steady simmer as you insert the patties.
Once you finish making the patties, cover the pot and bring the heat to low. Continue cooking for about 25 minutes. Take off the lid, incorporate the Manzanilla olives, Pepperoncini peppers and capers. Give it a soft stir and simmer uncovered for 20 more minutes, until the gefilte fish is thoroughly cooked and the broth is seasoned and has thickened nicely.
You may serve it with sliced challah and pickled pickles on the side.
Note: If you don't want to make the gefilte fish from scratch you may buy the unsweetened frozen raw pre-prepared gefilte fish mixture sold in the freezer sections of some stores and let it cook/simmer in the tomato broth. You may also buy the already cooked gefilte fish and let it heat in the sauce. It will not be the same though...
For Traditional Style or White Gefilte Fish
Place the fish heads and bones, onion, carrots, salt and pepper in a large cooking pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Stir and remove the scum. Simmer for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove head and most bones with a slotted spoon or tongs (my grandfatherÃ's favorite part was the fish's head–he would kill me if he saw this! If you will eat the head keep it in there).
As with the Veracruz version, place a bowl with lukewarm water to the side of the pot. As you make the patties, slide them into the simmering stock. Once you finish making the patties, cover the pot, bring the heat to low and let them cook covered for 25 minutes. Take lid off and cook for 20 minutes more.
Let the gefilte fish cool a bit and place in an extended deep container along with the cooked onions and carrots and the fish stock. Once they are cool enough, cover and refrigerate.
Serve cold or room temperature with slices of challah, pickled pickles and chrein.
Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, is studying whether the experience of being a virtual cow will make people feel more empathy. "[Our previous work] showed that if you had occupied the avatar of another person, you showed empathy toward them," Bailenson says. "But no one had ever tried this with another species."