Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cooking is Cheaper than Therapy: Matzo Ball Soup

You may be thinking, "Earlier this week you published photos of Easter eggs and bunnies, and today you have photos of Passover Matzo Ball Soup. What gives?" 

Monday was the first day of Passover. Think of me as an equal opportunity religious holiday celebrator. A few moons ago I was the guest at a large Seder in Bondi Junction, a suburb of Sydney, Australia; and it was a wonderful experience I will never forget. I also spent a couple of weeks learning about Kosher cooking. I have been cooking some of my favorite Passover recipes ever since. And yes - - there is a small cut of brisket in my refrigerator waiting for the oven. 

Matzo isn't just for Passover anymore. About 20 years ago I didn't see a lot of matzo on our local grocery store shelves, and today it is a staple in my house. I use it for wine tasting when I want to cleanse the palate, as well as it serves as a great neutral vehicle to hold appetizing spreads like olive tapenade, hummus, or baba ghanoush (eggplant dip). My sister makes a wonderful Matzo Toffee Crunch during Passover, and especially for the December holidays. 


This is one of my favorite soups that I make all year round. I can make it as easy or as extensive as I want. Extensive means boiling a whole chicken to make my own stock or as easy as using pre-made stock. If you are not a kosher-keeper, you can use can or boxed stock or "cheat" by poaching boneless chicken breasts in liquid made of water, aromatic veggies (onions, celery stalks and leaves, and carrots) and herbs such as sage and thyme. You can even add packaged stock, chicken bouillon for richness and white wine to the poaching liquid. If you are going to enjoy this soup with a glass of white wine, I would recommend to use the same wine to poach with. 

Floaters! 
Matzo Ball Soup

½ cup Matzo Meal (Streits or Manischewitz brand), or make your own fine meal in the food processor from sheets of matzo.
2 Tbsp vegetable oil or if you want to keep authentic, use “schmaltz” (chicken fat)
2 eggs
1 tsp kosher salt or to taste
(Optional: sprinkle of onion powder, garlic powder, and/or ground black pepper to taste)

1½ - 2 quarts of chicken broth/stock (home made or packaged)
2-3 carrots (sliced)
½ cup onion or shallots - finely chopped
1 finely chopped clove of garlic
1 sage leaf and/or thyme
cooked chicken meat (optional)

Lightly saute chopped onion and garlic (don't let it brown) with a bit of oil in a 2-3 quart soup pot. Add chicken broth, sliced carrots, and herbs. Bring to boil and let simmer. This is the broth that you will be cooking the matzo balls in. You may make it just before you are ready to drop the matzos into the soup or make it ahead of time. Some recipes call for to cook their matzo balls in water and add to broth before serving, but it all depends on what your Yiddish Bubbe did.

Make matzo balls: in a mixing bowl, blend vegetable oil and eggs together. Add salt (or adjust to taste or add above spices) to matzo meal. Add matzo meal and salt mixture to egg and vegetable oil mixture and blend well. If too thick, add a few drops or 1-2 teaspoons of water or stock to mixture. 


Cover mixing bowl and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes. Sometimes I make the matzo ball mixture the night before or in the morning before I plan on serving for dinner. Form the chilled matzo dough into 8-12 walnut size balls. Oil hands before rolling the dough and also the less you handle it the lighter the matzo balls will be. 

Heat chicken broth if needed. Reduce heat and into the slightly boiling broth drop the matzo balls. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes. While cooking matzo balls should have floated to the top (unless you prefer "sinkers", but I like the light and fluffy "floaters"). When serving - about 2-3 matzo balls per person. 


Matzo meal can be used for breading fish and poultry. Also makes a good filler for meatloaf and meat balls. It won't go to waste. Enjoy these yummy Jewish dumplings! 

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