Gefilte Fish in White Wine-Herb Broth with Creamy Horseradish Herb Sauce

From Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes and Customs for Today’s Kitchen by Leah Koenig (Chronicle) Yield:  20 fish balls
Prep Time:  1 hour Cook Time:  55 minutes

Gefilte Fish in White Wine-Herb Broth with Creamy Horseradish Herb Sauce

My take on gefilte fish strays from tradition, but with delicious results. I like to use mild-flavored whitefish fillets and lighten things up by swapping the typical fish broth used as a poaching liquid for a white wine- and herb-infused French broth called a court bouillon. I also infuse my gefilte fish with lemon zest, thyme, and oregano, giving it a lovely herbal flavor. Topped with grated horseradish or Creamy Horseradish Herb Sauce, it tastes just like tradition, but better.--Leah Koenig


For the Poaching Broth:

9 cups water

1 tablespoon kosher salt

⅔ cup dry white wine

1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped

½ small leek, white and light green parts, roughly chopped (see Notes from the Test Kitchen)

1 stalk celery, roughly chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 large garlic cloves, gently smashed

½ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, with stems and leaves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely cracked

1 lemon, thinly sliced


For the Gefilte Fish:

1½ teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into chunks

2½ pounds skinned whitefish fillets, such as a mix of halibut and cod, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into 1-inch chunks

¼ cup matzo meal

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


For the Horseradish Herb Sauce:

¾ cup mayonnaise

½ cup prepared white horseradish

¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill

¼ cup snipped fresh chives

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Make the poaching broth: Combine all the ingredients in a wide, deep pot set over high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl; then return the broth to the pot. Cover and set aside, off the heat. Discard the solids.
  2. Make the gefilte fish: Use a mortar and pestle to crush the thyme and oregano.
  3. Combine the onion and carrot in a food processor and process until the vegetables are finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl. Working in two batches, add the fish to the food processor and process until it is finely chopped and begins to form a ball. Add the fish to the vegetables along with the matzo meal, eggs, lemon zest, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper, and mix well to combine.
  4. Return the poaching broth to a simmer over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, moisten your hands with water. Scoop out a scant ¼ cup of the mixture and form into an oval 3 inches long. Set aside on a plate and repeat with the remaining fish mixture.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to place the fish balls in the gently simmering broth. Cover and simmer until firm and cooked through, 18 to 20 minutes. (If you cut one in half, it should be opaque at the center.) Remove the gefilte fish from the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer to a serving plate.
  6. Meanwhile, make the Horseradish Herb Sauce: Stir together the mayonnaise, horseradish, dill, chives, lemon juice, and pepper in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, or up to 2 days.
  7. Serve the gefilte fish warm or at room temperature, topped with horseradish herb sauce. (To make ahead, let cool and transfer to a large container. Pour over enough cooled poaching broth to submerge the gefilte fish. Cover the container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight.)

Kitchen Tips

The creamy, piquant Horseradish Herb Sauce can also be served with chicken or grilled steak.

Notes from the Test Kitchen

  1. If you haven’t cooked with leeks before, you need to know a few things: they’re delicious, but they absorb an amazing amount of soil as they grow, so you’ll need to wash them extremely well. First, trim off the tough outer leaves. Then, place the leek on a work surface, hold it by the root end and, with a sharp knife, slice lengthwise, starting about an inch from the root and working your way down the leaves (keeping the root end intact for the moment). Roll the leek over about half a turn, and slice again, so that the once tightly wound leaves hang in big strands from the root end. Wash well under running water, making sure to get in between each strand. When you are satisfied that all the dirt is removed, you can cut off the root end, trim any remaining tough green leaves and soak, slice or chop as the recipe requires.

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