I grew up Catholic, replete with plaid jumpers and JMJ (Jesus-Mary-Joseph) initialed on the tops of all test papers, and yet I’m unabashedly EEO in the kitchen. In the truest proof of this, I love love love to make matzoh ball soup. It, for me, is a like a textural wonderland – fluffy matzoh balls swimming in pools of liquid gold broth studded with coins of carrot and celery and shreds of tender chicken. I wear my shikse badge with pride, but this, my friends, is a champion soup that should know no religious leanings in any direction. Matzoh ball soup for all!
This old recipe, by way of Vo’s friend from Brooklyn, will make you floaters (not sinkers) assuming that you follow a few key rules.
Before you make the dough, make sure that your eggs are at room temperature. Cold eggs get you a thumbs down from Vo. A quick trick to get the eggs warm quicker is to put them in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes or so.
Also, I use butter for the fat in the matzoh balls, but if you have schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) and want to be super traditional, definitely use it. Sometimes I’ll use some of the chicken fat skimmed from the soup to make the matzoh balls. It’s goodness – trust me. If you make your own chicken stock for this recipe, when you let the stock chill, the chicken fat will solidify on top of the stock in a sheet. Simply scrape this up with a spoon and either use it in your matzoh balls or save it for another use (makes a great rub for roast chicken).
- Wet to Dry
Lastly, this is not an exact recipe – if your eggs are not so big, sometimes you’ll need to add an extra egg. When you mix your dough, if it’s rather thick and dry, give it another egg and a scant few tablespoons of extra broth (or water). It’s the egg that’s gonna fluff things up for you.
I serve this soup with tons of dill and occasionally, for a splurge, some blubbery egg noodles as well. If I want to do this REALLY well, I make some of the easiest homemade noodles of all time – it’s like matzoh ball soup heaven. Also, because I’m fussy at times, I shave my carrots and celery with a mandolin. It looks gorgeous and imparts even more savory veggie flavor to the stock. Not to mention, it takes less time for the veggies to cook up. Try it sometime. L’chaim!
Matzoh Ball Soup
1 whole chicken (can be cut up or left whole)
3 carrots, peeled
2 stalks of celery
1 onion, quartered
1 bay leaf
salt and black pepper
1 1/2 c. of matzoh meal
4 (or 5) large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 c. of melted butter (or schmaltz)
1/4 (or 1/2) c. of chicken stock, at room temperature
pinch of salt
two pinches of pepper
1 tsp. of dried dill (optional)
2 stalks of celery, sliced thinly
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 bag of egg noodles (optional)
chopped dill (optional)
Place chicken (or chicken pieces) into your pot. Cut your carrots and celery into 2 in. pieces and toss into the pot. Add your onion, bay leaf, 1 tbs of salt and a teaspoon of pepper. Fill pot with 12 cups of water and set to boil. Boil on high until the chicken starts to separate from the bone and the veggies become soft. Strain broth and put back into the pot. Set aside chicken and vegetables until they are cool enough to handle.
Separate the chicken, shred and set aside. Add the leftover vegetables, chicken skin and chicken bones to the pot and add water to the pot to make around 12 cups of soup (ie. if the water came up to 3/4 of the height of the pot in the first step, add enough water so that the soup comes up to the same level in the pot). Boil until the stock reduces by a quarter. Strain stock and taste for salt and pepper. Throw out the veggies, bones and bay leaf. At this point, you can cool the stock and chill overnight, or you can continue to cook the soup.
To make your matzoh balls, beat your eggs in a medium-sized bowl. When your butter has cooled a bit (but still melted), beat into the eggs. Add the chicken stock (I usually just ladle some out from my pot of soup and chill quickly in the fridge until it’s room temp), salt, pepper and dill. Stir in your matzoh meal, adding more egg or broth if needed to make a sticky dough. It should be a little gloopy, but not too wet. Refrigerate for one hour.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Wet hands and divide dough into six portions. With wet hands, roll portions into balls and drop them into the boiling water. Turn the heat down to medium and cover the pot of matzoh balls. Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until matzoh balls are cooked through. Scoop out of the pot and set aside.
Bring strained stock to a boil and add the chicken, sliced celery and sliced carrots. Cook until your veggies are tender.
While your veggies are cooking, bring another pot of water to a boil and cook your egg noodles. If they give you a time frame for cooking (ie. 7-9 minutes), cook them for the lesser amount of time. Drain and toss with a small amount of butter or olive oil. Just so you know, I cook and serve the noodles separately so that they don’t become waterlogged and soak up too much broth.
To serve, put about 1/2 c. of noodles in a bowl. Ladle over the chicken, veggies and hot broth. Toss in 1 or two matzoh balls. Top with a smattering of chopped dill and a couple extra cracks of black pepper.
Notes on Soup
- Extra matzoh balls can be saved in the fridge in a tupperware container away from the broth. Reheat in the microwave for a minute or so and then pour hot soup over them. Leftover goodness.
- This stock can be prepared with a lot of additional ingredients, to include smashed cloves of garlic, parsley stems, and celery tops. Add these ingredients after you strain the broth the first time when you return the chicken skin and bones back to the pot.