Gefilte Fish a la Veracruzana. Photo by Dave Katz.
In 1925, chef and cookbook author Pati Jinich’s family moved from a Polish shtetl to Mexico, arriving at the port of Veracruz on the country’s east coast. Her grandmother Esther Morgenstern was 7-years-old at the time, but would grow up to be a gifted cook. “Mexico brough so to her Ashkenazi cooking,” Pati says. Cinnamon found its way into her chocolate babka and cilantro became a key element in her p’tcha, a meat gelatin. But, “nothing beat her Mexican-style gefilte fish. She made the same fish mixture that she would for traditional gefilte fish, but she poached it in Veracruzana sauce, a thick spiced-up tomato sauce enriched with capers, green olives and pickled peppers, which she served hot,” Pati adds.
1 cup manzanilla olives stuffed with pimentos, sliced
8 pepperoncini peppers in vinegar brine
2 tablespoons capers
Prepare the fish patty mixture: Rinse the red snapper and flounder fillets under cool water. Slice into one inch pieces and place in food processor. Pulse for 5-10 seconds until fish is finely chopped but hasn’t turned into a paste.
Turn fish mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add onion, carrots, eggs, matzo meal, salt and white pepper into the same bowl of the food processor. Process until smooth. Add to fish mixture and combine thoroughly.
Prepare the sauce: Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and let cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring often, until soft and translucent.
Add the crushed tomatoes, stir, and let thicken for about 6 minutes. Then, add 3 cups broth or water, 2 tablespoons ketchup, salt and white pepper. Give it a good stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and bring sauce to a gentle simmer. Continue to let sauce simmer while you roll the gefilte fish patties.
Make the patties: Place a small bowl of lukewarm water to the side of the simmering tomato broth. Wet your hands as necessary, so the fish mixture does not stick to your hands. Shape each patty into an oval that is 3” long, 2” wide and 1” high. Gently slide each completed patty into the simmering broth. Raise the heat to medium if necessary to keep a steady simmer.
Once you finish making the patties, cover the pot and lower heat. Let simmer, covered for 25 minutes.
Add the manzanilla olives, pepperoncini peppers and capers. Give it a gentle stir and simmer uncovered for 20 more minutes, until the gefilte fish is cooked through and the broth has thickened. Serve hot.