Sunday, March 31, 2013

Matzo Ball Soup

Ask any Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jew what is one of the most common foods during Passover and matzo ball soup will likely be one of the answers. I have attempted and failed to make a matzo ball soup that doesn't well, suck, twice.

The first year when I was making sure everything I bought was kosher, I used pre-made kosher for Passover stock. Ugh. That was really bland and really horrible. Even doctoring it up with carrots, chicken, dill didn't help that soup. I also made the balls much too big and much too hard. Yuck.

The next year I made stock from scratch and followed a simple recipe that called for carrots, celery and chicken. It was also bland but not as bad. The matzo balls came out fluffier but still kinda gross.

The problem then is of course, that there are two parts to the soup. The first basic of this soup is a great chicken soup stock. Then good matzo balls. I tried a few different techniques from around the web and I think it went better. I think. I'll still mess with it each year but so far, this was the best version yet.

The stock was still not extremely seasoned. Because I was feeding a large crowd whose taste preferences range from pass the ghost pepper flakes to no pepper or your killing them, I kept it mild. For my individual taste, I added more pepper and dill to my individual bowl.

I still need to work on the actual matzo balls, but I hear only after years of making them does one truly achieve perfect balls :)

Matzo Ball Soup
I ended up having to buy a bigger stock pot this year as I was feeding twice as many people as last year, so I ended up using a 12 quart stock pot. This recipe makes a ton of soup, enough for 9 people plus left overs.

Everyone said it was really good. I'm not sure if people were being nice and actually liked it or not, but they all ate it. I thought it was good and I thinking making the stock ahead of time in small steps helped. It seemed less stressful and the flavor was much better.

Ingredients for stock

3 bay leaves
10 sprigs of flat leave parsley
2 tablespoon whole pepper corns
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 small white onions
1 pound peeled carrots
5 stalks of celery
1 parsnip
1/2 fennel
9 chicken thighs with skin
2 quarts chicken stock - check the ingredients for non-Passover items like yeast!
6 quarts of water

Directions for stock

This can be made the day of but first off, it takes a long time (hours!) and second, the stock gains flavor the longer it sits. Stock can normally be safely frozen up to four months and refrigerated for up to 3 full days.

Add all ingredients to stock pot. Bring to a low boil and simmer for 2 hours until chicken is done. Make sure you don't have the heat high enough that it breaks the chicken thighs apart or it will be a pain to pick the chicken meat out.

Remove the chicken thighs from the stock and let cool. Remove the chicken meat and refrigerate.

Add the skin and bones back to the stock. Keep stock on the lowest heat for 6 hours.

Let your stock cool and then strain all the veggies, herbs and bones out.

Return stock to pot and allow to cool in fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight. When you check your soup, there will be a layer of fat on top. Skim this off and if you wish, save it for the matzo balls (it isn't schmaltz but you could always use it in it's place), if not, disregard it.

Ingredients for matzo balls

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2teaspoon dill or 1 sprig fresh dill, finely chopped
4 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons reserved chicken fat or vegetable oil or butter (not kosher but yummy!)
1 cup matzo meal
4 tablespoons chicken stock

Directions for matzo balls

Mix salt, pepper, dill, eggs and oil lightly together. Add the matzo meal and gently blend together. Don't stir too much or your matzo balls will come out dense.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1-4 hours. The longer they sit the stronger the flavor is.

Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. *You can boil them in stock as well, it will make the stock cloudy but some swear it makes them taste better. I've done it both ways.

Wet your hands with water so that the matzo mixture doesn't stick to your hands. Spoon out 1 tablespoon of matzo mixture and gently roll it in your hand. Don't over roll or compact the balls, a light touch is best.

Once all of the matzo balls have been rolled, carefully drop them into the boiling water for 30-40 minutes. Cover.

The matzo balls will puff up when boiling and should double in size. The matzo balls are done when they can easily be cut in half with a spoon and should be light in uniform in color.

Remove from heat.

Ingredients for finished matzo ball soup

1 pound, sliced carrots (I cheated and used canned so they were already soft)
5 stalks celery finely chopped
chicken saved from chicken thighs
chicken stock
matzo balls

Direction for finished matzo ball soup

Bring your stock up to a low boil.

Add carrots, celery and chicken to soup. Let simmer until celery is done.

Remove from heat. Either add the matzo balls directly to the broth so that they can soak up some of the flavor or spoon matzo balls directly into individual bows, ladling the stock over it.

Eat and enjoy!

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