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Monday, April 2, 2012

Matzo Ball Soup

This recipe comes from my grandmother, Ruth Milton. She claimed to have found it on the Manischewitz Matzo Meal box, but it was her light touch with the batter, not to mention her nuanced skill at schmaltz- (rendered chicken fat) and soup-making that lifted it above the ordinary. We had it on all holidays and many other special occasions, and nobody tired of it, ever. I'll never forget when I was twenty, and she sat me down and taught be how to make it: I was so proud to have this wonderful tradition passed on to me! Well now, in her honor and for Passover, I'm going to teach you to make it, too. Please enjoy, and pass the recipe on to others if you can.

Matzo Ball Soup

1/4 cup rendered chicken fat*
4 eggs, beaten to blend
1 cup matzo meal
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup chicken broth or water
1 large pot simple chicken soup (click here to see recipe)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley or dill

  1. Mix fat and eggs together. Add matzo meal and salt and mix well. Stir in broth or water until well blended. Cover and refrigerate at least 20 minutes, or up to 2 hours.
  2. When ready to make matzo balls, bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, divide the matzo meal mixture into 16 equal portions. Roll each one lightly and briefly between your dampened palms to form balls. Do not compress the dough, or poke at it too much, or it will get tough. Place balls on a moistened plate until all have been rolled. 
  3. Reduce burner heat to low, and into barely bubbling water, drop balls in a single layer. (The easiest way to do this is with two spoons dipped into cold water.) Be quick about this step, as the pot needs to be covered as soon as possible.
  4. Cover, and cook in barely simmering water for 40 minutes. DO NOT UNCOVER OR PEEK INTO THE POT, EVEN FOR A MOMENT, or the matzo balls may not cook properly. Meanwhile, bring your chicken soup to a simmer.
  5. When done, and the matzo balls have magically risen to the top of their pot, drain and transfer them to the soup with a slotted spoon. Let simmer in hot soup 10-20 minutes.
  6. Either serve immediately or refrigerate, then let come to room temperature and reheat the matzo ball soup until bubbling: 20-30 minutes. Try not to let the soup boil vigorously during reheating. Serve garnished with the chopped herbs.
Makes 16 large balls

* You make this by saving the fat and skin cut off any chicken you happen to be cooking, plus fat that rises to the top of chicken soups, roast chicken pan juices, etc., then adding a little water and cut-up onion and cooking it down till the onions are brown and only fat remains. Strain out solids and refrigerate. 
Yes, Virginia, the matzo balls do taste much better if you use real chicken fat, rather than anything else. If you absolutely cannot use chicken fat for some reason, you can make a facsimile by rendering a butter substitute like Smart Balance with a little chicken broth and some onion as above. It's not bad. But real chicken fat tastes so much better...   

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