TVP Mock Fish
(Chef Aaron Egan)

Mock fish very closely resembles how you might make gefilte fish both in flavor profile and method.

With the rainfall of late, my mind has been on flooding throughout history, whether the Biblical flood or simply the instances in the last 60 years when I-94 was underwater at the next “500-year flood event” that happened far fewer than 500 years ago.

Chef Aaron Egan
Chef Aaron Egan

And, of course, my mind turns to food, and to fish, because the rivers running in the gutters on the streets in my neighborhood might as well be running with fish for how deep they can get. As someone with food allergies, though, I don’t eat actual fish. I’ve got a weird fake fish made from tofu in my freezer that I keep meaning to do …  something … with, and I’ve made dishes that might normally use seafood without those ingredients, doing my best to create a similar flavor result.

Here, however, I have a recipe inspired by one in an older cookbook gifted to me by a good friend: The Spice and Spirit of Kosher Jewish Cooking. Published by Chabad in 1977. It’s very much a crash course in running a Jewish home for a young woman who’s married into a more religious situation than she was familiar with, or who didn’t have a bubbie to teach her the old ways and thus is a little lost on how to cook for Shabbos. The cookbook contains a wide variety of recipes and ranges from very culinarily complicated to the occasional onion soup packet and cream of mushroom soup-based dishes, with a lot falling somewhere in the strange space in between.

As a dish to use leftover cooked chicken, there’s a recipe for mock fish; it very closely resembles how you might make gefilte fish both in flavor profile and method. Why not adapt this to use a non-meat base and create something tasty? This looks like a lot from the ingredients, but it’s very simple and uses a lot of things from the garden.

TVP “Mock Fish”

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups TVP (textured vegetable protein), rehydrated with 1⅓ cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 cup carrot, grated (about 1 larger carrot)
  • 1 cup yellow onion, grated, juices drained off and reserved (roughly one 3-4-inch onion, maybe less)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup matzo meal, plus more if needed
  • ½ Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. sugar (optional, use if you’re a Galicianer, who likes it sweeter)
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped, rinsed, and wrung out (save the stems!)

Cooking Liquid:

  • 3 qts. water
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, quartered
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 green pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • the saved stems from the parsley 
  • 1-2 stems fresh dill
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar (again for the Galicianers only)

Directions:

Rehydrate the TVP and set aside. Chop the parsley well, wrap it tightly in a tea towel or cloth napkin, and rinse it under cold water, wringing it out occasionally. Give it one final good wring to get all the liquid and extra chlorophyll out and set aside.

Place the water and all the ingredients for the cooking liquid, save for the salt and sugar, in a large, wide pot. Bring to a boil, and when it’s beginning to roll, add the salt and sugar. (This will save your pots from pitting under an intense concentration of salt.)

While the water (now a “court bouillon” of sorts) is heating, turn your attention back to the mock fish. Combine the TVP, grated carrot and onion, minced garlic, egg, matzo meal, salt, pepper, sugar and parsley in a bowl and mix well until combined evenly. Dose in a little of the onion juice as you mix to make sure the flavors permeate; pour the rest of the juices into the poaching liquid. If it’s too loose of a mixture to handle, add a bit more matzo meal. If it’s too stiff, add a little water or onion juice.

Reduce the poaching liquid to a simmer. Form the “mock fish” mixture into patties about the size of your palm, pressing firmly to pack the ingredients together. Slip these patties into the poaching liquid as you make them and work quickly to make sure they’re all cooking roughly at the same rate.

Poach, covered, for 15-20 minutes, or until the balls float and are cooked through. It may take longer depending on your stove; turn periodically with a slotted spoon to ensure even cooking.

Serve with horseradish, mustard, broths, matzo balls, pumpernickel, etc., hot or cold, to your preference. If you’re keeping the mock fish in your fridge, you should indeed store it in a little bit of the liquid that it was cooked in, much like matzo balls … or gefilte fish, though it won’t make a jelly quite the same.

The cookbook would probably suggest you pour a can of tomato sauce over these. I’d more likely use them in a soup, stew or broth bowl type situation, or make a creamy, lightly acidic sauce to work with the TVP funk and the strong onion flavor you’re bringing to the table. Experiment and figure out what tastes good to you. 

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