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  • Writer's pictureFay Walsh

Bubbe's Matzo Ball Soup

One of the most recognized and celebrated Passover foods is Matzo Ball Soup. Internationally loved for its fluffy dumplings - do not underestimate the skill required in preparing this dish! There is a whole chicken in this bowl of chicken stock in a recipe derived from my Bubbe and Joy of Cooking.

A good matzo ball soup will take you two days to prepare as the matzo balls need to chill overnight for maximum fluffiness.


Make the Stock

Never salt heavily at the beginning of stock making. The liquid reduces so much in the cooking process, and it's nearly impossible to determine the right amount of salt. Too much salt can quickly ruin a whole day's work!

Stock making is quite the opposite of most other cooking processes. Mature veggies and meat create more flavor. Because you are trying to extract as much moisture from the bird as possible, you should begin your soup-making with very cold water to best draw out the juices. Also, it's imperative to be patient and simmer the liquid low & slow for many hours.


Make the Matzo Balls

After years of experimenting, two ingredients are genuinely for the perfect matzo ball: schmaltz and seltzer. Schmaltz is the Yiddish word for chicken fat, and luckily you will have loads on hand from your soup-making effort. The seltzer is an urban legend, but I haven't met a Bubbe who doesn't rely on the bubbles for extra fluff. For the starch, matzo meal is better for its more delicate texture. For the best results, you should chill the batter overnight, but two hours is enough time to allow the seltzer to do its magic.


The Garnish

Adding fresh greens makes the dish trendier and more inviting.

Fresh parsley (served up in abundance on Passover), celery leaves, chives, and fresh dill brighten up this dish, enhancing its presentation.



 

YOUR BUBBE'S MATZO BALL SOUP



THE SOUP

  • a whole chicken (4lbs)

  • white peppercorns

  • 1 bay leaf

  • a sprig of thyme

  • star anise

  • a bunch of fresh parsley

  • 1 diced medium onion

  • 3 ribs celery, diced

  • 1 medium diced carrot


THE MATZO BALLS

  • 1 cup matzo meal (not matzo ball mix), or 1 cup finely ground matzo boards

  • ¼ cup finely chopped chives

  • 1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • 5 large eggs

  • ⅓ cup chicken fat, grapeseed oil

  • ¼ cup club soda or seltzer

  • 3 to 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced on a bias, plus any leaves

  • ½ cup chopped dill leaves

  • Freshly ground black pepper



 

  1. Prepare the broth: Combine all soup ingredients in a large pot. Cover with 4 quarts cold water and a pinch of salt.

  2. Bring the poultry slowly to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low so that the broth is gently simmering uncovered for 30 mins.

  3. Continue to gently simmer, partly covered, until the broth is extremely flavorful and well seasoned, about three hours. Using tongs, remove breasts, thighs and legs from the pot (let any skin and bones fall into the pot), leaving everything else behind. Be sure to remove the scum (schmaltz) from the top and reserve for the matzo balls later.

  4. Pick the meat from the chicken, discarding any fat, skin, bones, cartilage or any drier pieces of meat that you wouldn’t find delicious to eat. Set meat aside to either put back into your soup, or to use in another dish (chicken salad, etc).

  5. Strain broth (you should have about 10 cups) and return to the pot. Season with salt and pepper (it should be as seasoned and delicious as you’d want it to be when serving). Keep warm, if using same day, or let cool and refrigerate overnight.

  6. As broth sits, prepare the matzo balls: Combine matzo meal, chives and 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt in a medium bowl. Using a fork, incorporate eggs until well blended. Add schmaltz, followed by seltzer, mixing until no lumps remain. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until mixture is firm and fully hydrated, at least 2 hours (and up to 24 hours).

  7. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Using your hands, roll matzo ball mixture into balls slightly smaller than the size of a ping pong ball (about 1 1/4-inch in diameter), placing them on a plate or parchment lined baking sheet until all the mixture is rolled (you should have about 24 matzo balls).

  8. Add matzo balls to the boiling water and cook until floating, puffed and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. (You can always sacrifice one, plucking it from the broth and cutting it in half to check that it’s cooked through. The texture should be uniform in color and texture, and the balls shouldn’t be dense or undercooked in the center.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the matzo balls to the chicken broth.

  9. Add celery (and some of the picked chicken meat, if you desire) and season again with salt before ladling into bowls, topping with dill, celery leaves and a crack of freshly ground pepper.

matzo balls recipe courtesy The New York Times


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