matzo ball . These devotees basically divide up into two different camps: Some people like matzo balls that float & others like ones that sink. Personally, I like mine to be somewhere in between -- a bit fluffy and yet solid in the center -- while probably still veering slightly to the more substantial. In other words, their density should be more like a golf ball but not quite a bowling ball. ;) And a ping pong ball is just way too light!The bottom line is this: When it comes to matzo balls, I want to feel like I'm actually eating something, not some mere puff of air that almost isn't there. This isn't the time for consuming a bowl of the " There seems to be a fierce debate amongst matzo ball soup lovers about what constitutes the perfect unbearable lightness of being ." ;) In my humble opinion, lightness should be primarily reserved for the mandlen (soup nuts), not the matzo balls.
To my mind, they've still got to pack a punch & have some heavyweight "oomph" behind them. Welterweight division I think. ;) Ah yes, I can just picture it now.... And in our left corner, we have Manny the Massive Matzo Ball -- a.k.a. "The Punisher" or "Manny the Menace," or in some circles, known simply as "The Wrecking Ball" :) -- weighing in at an impressive 80 pounds. ;) He's accompanied by his trainer, Moishe the Meddlesome, who is, at this very moment, dispensing some weighty words of wisdom. ;) And facing him, in the opposite corner, is his stout opponent, Zeke the Zaftig. OK, somebody please stop me before I start reciting lines from all 6 Rocky screenplays with the voice of a 90-year-old Yiddish man. ;)
(Coulda been a contenda! Gah! Wait, that doesn't count because it's from different movie . ;) Anyhow, let's get back to the subject, shall we?!....)
What was I talking about again? ;) Ah yes, the proper heft of a matzo ball. :) There's something really satisfying about biting into the dense-yet-somehow-still-fluffy ones. I really like that how that weight & texture feel in my mouth & frankly don't mind if they're going to sink to the bottom like a lead weight. That is, just as long as they don't make a crash landing into my bowl after first being hurled across the room with the trajectory of a shot put. :) Did heard about the matzo ball that sank the Titantic? ;)
Yes, it's true: This very subject could quite possibly provide endless hours of amusement. :)
Dishes, in general, need contrasts to make them work -- a bit of heaviness & a bit of lightness, a bit of sweet & a bit of savory, etc. Not only does this apply to the matzo balls, but also to the rest of the soup as well: The carrots add just a touch of sweetness; the herbs, spices, vegetables, & chicken broth all add a bit of savoriness; and the matzo balls, noodles, & any later-added component (like matzo crackers, mandlen , & farfel , etc.) all provide a subtle-tasting, starchy base with varying degrees of texture.
One thing is for sure: It's certainly worth making matzo ball soup from scratch. It's not really that hard, but the payoff is HUGE. :) Sure, you might've had Tabatchnick 's frozen, boxed version or Manischewitz 's out of a jar, but of course nothing can compare to a freshly-made, piping hot bowl of matzo ball soup.
This recipe is dedicated to our friend, Dan, who was Erik's officemate a couple of years ago. Of course, he's a big fan of matzo ball soup. :) After all, who doesn't love a tasty bowl of matzo ball soup?!
So Dan, if you're tuned in & happen to see this post, this one's for you. :)
20 whole black peppercorns
1/4 c. whole scallion, with roots lopped off (about 2-3 large whole scallions)
Matzo Ball Soup (Made From Scratch!)3 Tbsp. whole garlic (about 6 large whole cloves)
Containing the most modest & simplest of ingredients, this hearty & flavorful soup is so easy to make, but the end result is extremely satisfying, & the taste is absolutely "out-of-this-world"!
Chicken Stock Ingredients: (Yield: Approximately 7.5 quarts)
8 qts. (1 gal. or 16 c.) cold water
3 1/2 lbs. (preferably fresh) chicken necks & backs, cleaned & washed off
1 large yellow onion, unpeeled & halved, with roots lopped off
2 large, fresh bay leaves
Solid Soup Ingredients:
1 c. baby carrots, sliced crosswise into 1/4" thick rounds (about 40 baby carrots)
1/2 c. parsnips, scrubbed, peeled, & sliced crosswise into 1/4" thick rounds (about 2 large parsnips)
1/2 c. celery, ends discarded & sliced crosswise into 1/4" thick pieces (about 2-3 large celery stalks)
1/4 c. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely minced & tightly packed
1/2 c. fresh dill, finely minced & tightly packed
1/8 tsp. ground turmeric
salt, to taste
black (or white) ground pepper, to taste
Matzo Ball Ingredients: (Yield: Makes 14-16 matzo balls)1/2 c. matzo meal (If unavailable, just pulse matzo meal in a food processor until finely ground)1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt (or, if you prefer very lightly salted matzo balls, use only 1/2 tsp.)1/4 tsp. ground white pepper1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
2 extra large eggs, beaten1 Tbsp. cold seltzer water (or for less salt content, choose club soda)6 qts. water (for simmering the matzo balls)
Noodles:8-10 c. water, seasoned with a drop of soup stock (see above) (for boiling noodles)6 oz. (1/2 of a 12-oz. bag) of Manischewitz fine, premium enriched egg noodles *
Directions: Make the chicken stock: (Prepare the chicken stock at least one day in advance.) In a large, 10-12 qt. stock pot, bring 8 qts. water to a rolling boil. Do NOT salt the water. (Instead, wait until you've finished making the soup & then allow your guests to season their individual bowls of soup to taste.) This will take a while, so while you're waiting for the water to boil, you can do the vegetable prep (cutting, etc.). :)
When water has reached a rolling boil, reduce heat to low & add chicken necks & backs, unpeeled onion halves, whole garlic, whole scallions, bay leaves, & whole black peppercorns. Simmer, covered (with the matching lid), for 3 hours. While you're waiting you can put away any unused kitchen utensils &/or ingredients that you're no longer using, toss dirty dishes & utensils into the dishwasher, discard scraps, &/or clean up the kitchen or quite possibly, your entire house. ;) Feel free to redecorate while you're at it. Haha!
After the 3 hours are up, remove cover & skim off froth. Using heat-proof tongs , drain & discard chicken necks & backs, & all other solids. Let stock rest, uncovered, on stove top until completely cooled. (This process will take an hour or more.) Then, pour completely cooled stock from the container through a fine-mesh sieve and strain into one -- or two (or more!) -- very large, heat-proof container(s). Seal container with its matching lid, & refrigerate overnight. (This process will make the chicken fat rise to the top & solidify, thus making it easier to remove.)
IMPORTANT: If you only own one 10-12 qt. stock pot, now would also be the perfect time to wash it, as you'll be using it again the very next day. :)
The next day, open the container & skim off & discard any chicken fat that's formed on top & any other remaining solids you might've missed the first time around. ;) At this point, you have two choices: Either place the container of prepared stock back into the refrigerator (or freeze it) for future use, or, if you're planning to serve the matzo ball soup that same day, just pour the opened container of stock it back into the pot. :) I'm sure there are probably also third & fourth choices, like giving the soup stock to a friend or using it for another recipe, but those won't be covered at length here. ;)
Now, it's time to make the soup: Place half of the chicken stock back into (now hopefully clean!) stock pot and bring to a rolling boil. Reserve the remaining stock for future use. Turn down the heat to medium-low & drop in all of the soup ingredients, except for the salt -- baby carrots, parsnips, celery, fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, fresh dill, ground turmeric. Then cover, & simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15-30 minutes. When done, skim off any residue & set aside.
Prepare the matzo ball mixture: Mix together all dry ingredients (matzo meal, baking powder, salt, white pepper, onion powder, & garlic powder) in a medium-sized bowl & set aside. In another bowl, whisk seltzer water into beaten eggs, & then gradually but quickly fold in the dry matzo meal mixture, gently blending together with a fork, until just combined. Use a light touch & don't overmix the batter, or your matzo balls will be rubbery & most likely taste like miniature hockey pucks! This step is very important!
Place bowl of matzo meal mixture into the refrigerator & chill for 30 minutes, to allow it to set. After about 15 minutes into refrigeration, fill a 10-12 qt. stockpot with 6 qts. water, & bring to a rolling boil. When water has come to a full boil, reduce heat to a simmer. The matzo meal mixture should now be about ready to be removed from the refrigerator.
Shape the matzo balls: Do the next few steps in rapid succession: Open fridge, take out bowl containing matzo meal mixture, & place onto the counter. Line a large baking sheets with baker’s parchment & set it near the bowl. Next, wet your hands and -- either using your wet hands or a large soup spoon that's first been dipped into water -- place about a tablespoonful of matzo meal mixture at a time into the palm of one of your hands. (I prefer to use my hands as it's easier to control the amount of mixture used. Don't worry about getting them messy; you can always just wash off your hands after shaping each matzo ball, which you'll need to do anyhow to make them easier to form.) Then, using both palms, gently & loosely form into ping-pong-sized balls, approximately 1" in diameter, placing each ball onto the prepared baking sheets as you make them. Do not make the matzo balls any bigger than this: Keep in mind that your matzo balls will double in size when cooked! (The mixture should be the consistency of lightly mashed potatoes -- soft but still pliable & slightly spongy.) Repeat this procedure, wetting your hands before making each one, until all of the mixture has been made into balls. Don't compact the mixture or overwork the "dough." Again, it's very important to use a light touch; be careful not to man-handle the mixture in a quest for the most perfectly shaped matzo ball. ;) Otherwise, your matzo balls will be dense & chewy! The secret to the perfect matzo ball isn't just in the ingredients themselves (i.e., using seltzer water instead of water or stock, etc.), but also in the techniques you use: Specifically, the less you handle the "dough" as you mix & the form the matzo balls, the better!
Cook the matzo balls: About half an hour before serving time, gently place each matzo ball into the simmering (note I said simmering & NOT boiling!) pot of water, one at a time, using a large, heat-proof, slotted spoon. (This is better than just plopping them in; after all, you don't want to burn your hands in the scalding hot water!) Cook, uncovered (!), for 25 minutes, & then remove one matzo ball from the pot using a slotted spoon. Cut open, wait until it's cooled slightly, & then check to make sure it's been uniformly cooked; then taste-test for proper consistency. If you deem it necessary, cook matzo balls for another 5 minutes or so. By this point, they should've doubled in sized. Please note: The length of time you choose to cook your matzo balls is an absolutely crucial factor in determining their weight & texture; this is another key consideration if you wish to achieve matzo ball nirvana. :) The longer you cook the matzo balls, the lighter they will be. However, past a certain point (i.e., usually somewhere around the 45-60 minute mark), they will become so mushy & loose that they will break into pieces even at the slightest attempt to scoop them out of the pot; so, be careful not to cook them too long! Most professional chefs who cook matzo ball soup for a living will recommend cooking matzo balls for 25 minutes, or 30 minutes tops. So, you see, I'm not just pulling this number out from my... er, I mean, from a hat. ;)
About 10 minutes before the matzo balls are ready, make the noodles: In yet another, but much smaller, pot, bring 8 c. of water to a rapid bowl, about 8-10 minutes, & then drop in 6 oz. (half a 12 oz. bag) of noodles. Add a small drop of chicken stock to season the soup & keep the noodles from sticking together. Cook until al dente, according to package instructions. ( Manischewitz fine, premium enriched egg noodles take about 4 minutes to finish cooking; do not cook any longer than this as the noodles will cook even longer after they are warmed in the soup. Pour noodles into a colander (or fine-mesh sieve) & drain. Shock with cold water, drain once more, & set aside.
After the noodles have been cooking for about 3 minutes, reheat the soup in yet another pot, simmering on low for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat & set aside. Allow to cool for a minute or two.
To serve: When the matzo balls are ready, carefully remove them with a slotted spoon, one at a time, & drain. Transfer them very gingerly, one by one, to large bowls, dividing them up into equal portions. There should be between 2-4 matzo balls per person, depending on how many people you're serving & exactly how hungry those people are. :) Divide up the noodles into equal portions & place them into the bowls, arranging the noodles around the matzo balls. Let the matzo balls rest for a few minutes to allow them to firm up a bit. Then, ladle some soup into each bowl, pouring the soup over top of the matzo balls, making sure to scoop up enough vegetables for each serving of soup. Allow matzo balls to simmer in the soup until they're warmed through, about 5-7 minutes. Before your dinner guests season the soup with additional salt & pepper, recommend to them that they taste the soup & also bite into the matzo balls: There's already a decent amount of seasoning in there. Then, after tasting, each guest can adjust salt & pepper, if necessary, to suit their individual preferences. Serve piping hot with farfel , mandlen , &/or matzo crackers , & eat immediately.
Enjoy! Ess gezunterhait ! (Just try not to fress like a complete chazzer . ;) Haha! JUST kidding.)
Chef's Notes: Yeah, I know this section is huge & is probably causing your eyes to bug out right about now. ;) However, please don't panic or get overwhelmed, & then decide to completely skip this section. :) First of all, this section is meant to be used as a reference, so just skim it & go to directly to the section that provides the most pertinent background information you're seeking or helps to answer any potential questions. The reason I've included so many notes is precisely because there are a considerable number of factors to take into account when making matzo balls; & also, because if I put all of this information in the directions section instead, it would probably seriously freak people out. ;)
Yield: 4-6 servings as a main course, or 8-10 servings as an appetizer.
So, if you're an experienced chef who hasn't made this soup before, just skip directly to the sections that apply to specific matzo ball-making techniques. However, if you're a first-timer or haven't had much success making matzo ball soup in the past, please actually read these notes. They will help you a great deal! Also, there's a lot of humorous content in there that was expressly written for your amusement and also, to help keep your attention. :)
Tips & information about making the chicken stock: A clever & highly effective trick I like to use is to make chicken stock by adding only the chicken necks & backs to the stock pot. (In fact, the very first time I'd made chicken stock, I'd thought that I was so clever & original for using only the chicken necks instead of a whole chicken to make the stock, only to later discover that others had beaten me to this bright idea.;) And in addition, they also had the foresight to use the backs as well, something I hadn't originally thought to do.)
There isn't a lot of meat on these chicken parts, which is perfect for making stock. The skin & bones, in combination with what little meat there is to be found on the chicken necks & backs, will provide more than enough flavor for the stock. This method is not only less wasteful but also far less messy -- these chicken parts tend to stay in one piece & won't fall off &/or disintegrate in the stock as its boiling. So, no more picking out stringy bits of chicken from the stock. :) Before discarding the chicken backs & necks, consider this: You can remove the meat from the necks & backs & then use them for other dishes. Also, your pets might like a snack. :) Just be sure to remove all of the bones first -- especially the tiny, hard-to-find ones -- to avoid choking hazards.
Other related insights: The reason an unpeeled onion is added to the soup stock is to add extra color & flavor to the soup. Also, the reason I didn't make a typical mirepoix & simmer the carrots, parsnips, & celery at the same time onion is that the 3-hour cooking time required for the stock would've made these vegetables turn to mush, & yet, they still need to be consumed as part of the soup! Additionally, cooking these components all together not only makes for greasy vegetables (yuck!), but also makes it more difficult to remove the schmaltz (i.e., (rendered chicken fat solids) from the stock after refrigeration.
Also, the reason I wrote the recipe for double the amount of stock that's typically needed to accompany the matzo balls is that the chicken necks & backs are usually sold in 3 lb. packages. :) Plus, if you only use up half of the package, what the heck else are you going to do with chicken necks & backs? ;) There's not much else you can really do with them, except use them for stock. Also, you never know when a frozen container of soup stock will come in handy!
Where to find chicken necks & backs: Butcher shops, & several kosher markets will usually sell chicken necks & backs. Whole Foods sells organic chicken, including air-chilled packages of necks & backs. If you don't see any fresh, air-chilled packages in the meat aisle, ask the butcher at the counter if (s)he can prepare some for you. The chicken necks & backs have very little meat on them, which is ideal for making soup stock.
Where to find egg noodles & other related tips: Manischewitz fine, premium enriched egg noodles can be found at most major chain grocery stores, except maybe if you live in the sticks or in a country where 99.9999% of the population has absolutely no clue what a matzo ball is in the first place, & so, your supermarkets probably won't even carry a product like this. ;)
If you'd like to use a slightly thicker noodle, try " Kluski " egg noodles, which are only slightly larger than the fine noodles by a fraction of an inch. Or, you could go with the very traditional, square egg noodles (a.k.a., egg noodle "flakes" ), which is what you'd find if you paid a visit to the epitome, nay the inimitable pillar, of all kosher delis, the one and only 2nd Avenue Deli . :)
Vegetarian/vegan matzo ball soup: Vegetarians & vegans, see, I haven't forgotten you. :) You can easily make a vegetarian version of this recipe. Just omit the chicken products & use a vegetable stock instead. Et le voila, you'll have vegetarian/vegan matzo ball soup!
Other little pearls of wisdom regarding matzo-ball making: If you should be tempted to taste the matzo ball "batter" while you're making it, don't worry if it tastes really salty. This is normal. (And believe me, my recipe actually has less salt than a lot of other recipes!) A lot of the salt in the matzo balls will seep into the stock after the soup is poured over top of them, & this will actually help to flavor the soup. This is why it's always best to make unsalted chicken stock & soup, & then allow each individual to season their own bowls of soup to taste. :)
Be sure that you choose the widest and deepest stock pot you can find, as it's best if the matzo balls can cook in a single layer without touching the bottom of the pot. ;) And while we're on this topic: Many people think it's a good idea to add the uncooked matzo balls directly to the soup. Yeah, you know what I'm gonna say next. :) This is NOT a good idea, people. First of all, your matzo balls will most likely puff up to the size of basketballs (LOL!) & second, they'll knock against the vegetables & then the soup will start to get rather starchy. In other words, your soup will neither look nor taste very good. :)
Also, here's another bit of so-called "wisdom" that you should unequivocally ignore: You don't need to separate the eggs from the yolks, then whip egg whites to a frenzied froth, & then follow suit with the egg yolks. :) This is all a bunch of B.S. :) Furthermore, if you follow this procedure, chances are you'll have trouble getting the two to combine, and thus will have to whip the batter for longer. And we all know what gluey & gummy disaster awaits if you do that. ;)
And, here's another myth I'd like to debunk: Whatever you do, do NOT, and I repeat, do NOT place the lid onto the stock pot while your matzo balls are cooking. I don't care what other "experts" have told you. If you want enormously large & spontaneously combustible matzo balls, go ahead & follow this advice. ;)
And last but certainly not least, do NOT place the matzo balls into boiling water! First, turn down the heat to low & simmer before dropping them into the pot. Otherwise, you'll have mushy matzo balls the size of small disco balls. :)
Depending on how you like your matzo balls, you might want to make some adjustments to the ingredient amounts. For those of you who like your matzo balls to be slightly larger, soft puffs of air, you can add either another 1/2 tsp. of baking powder or another 1/2 tsp. of seltzer. Here are the effects of adding one or the other: More baking powder will make your matzo balls increase in size & also get a heck of a lot puffier, while the carbonation (i.e., bubbles!) in the seltzer water will make them lighter & also moister. And whatever you do, please don't add both! It's overkill. Your matzo balls will literally start to feather & disappear into the soup!
Advance prep work & shelf life: To make things easier, make the chicken stock at least a day or more in advance. If you aren't planning to use it right away, the stock can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to a month. Of course, before you do this, be sure to first remove the chicken necks and backs, onion, whole garlic cloves, whole scallions, bay leaves, & peppercorns, then refrigerate the stock overnight, and then finally, skim off the schmaltz. :) Or, if you'd prefer to freeze the soup as a single component (i.e., stock + soup ingredients), again, be sure you've already gone through the steps I just mentioned in the previous sentence (i.e., removing all of the aforementioned solids, refrigerating the stock, & then removing the solified schmaltz, in that particular order) before combining the stock with the soup ingredients & then freezing it. IMPORTANT: Do NOT freeze the soup & the matzo balls together, because you'll want to defrost & reheat each separately, & then warm the matzo balls by pouring hot soup over them. Here's a very good reason for following this procedure: Each component defrosts at a different temperature, & defrosting/reheating them together will make for a typically mushy affair. ;) Either that, or you'll have the unenviable experience of biting into a matzo ball & finding a cold, icy center, even though the soup is hot. And let me tell you, that's not a very pleasant or refreshing sensation. After all, a matzo ball is not a Peppermint Pattie . ;)
Matzo balls can be prepared in advance & then refrigerated (for a day or two) or frozen (for up to a month). They can also be cooked several hours in advance and then added to the soup to re-heat them. Be sure to simmer them in the soup long enough, so they are warmed all the way through. Otherwise, you'll experience what I mentioned above, and no one likes that. :)
A word about why I've staged a health-conscious rebellion against traditional matzo-ball making: Traditionally, the schmaltz is skimmed off the top of the chicken stock & then later added to the matzo ball mixture. Although this is the time-honored way of making matzo balls -- and some even go so far as to get snooty about it & rant that this the only real method of making matzo balls (Ugh, don't even get me started!), it's also the incredibly fattening way as well. So take your pick: Tradition, or a heart attack. ;)
Schmaltz is also incredibly disgusting looking . Its appearance alone is usually enough to ward off the average health-conscious person. :) Now imagine what it'd look like pasted to your hips & stomach & then you'll probably run away screaming. Hahaha.
I don't know about you, but I'd rather not make a "bowl of saturated animal fat" & serve it to the people I love, thank you very much. :) Atherosclerosis , anyone?! Didn't think so. :) There, now doesn't that sound SO appealing?! Bet you'll never want to eat anything with chicken fat ever again. ;) (Speaking of which, if you're trying to lose weight, give me a call & I'll gladly make anything fattening you've been craving seem completely unappealing. It's a hidden talent of mine. Hahaha!)
Other people like to add vegetable, canola, or even peanut (!) oil. I've even seen some people suggest adding butter. Clearly, these people who suggest using butter aren't Jewish (they're certainly not kosher at any rate!), nor do they have the remotest clue how to make matzo ball soup. :) Furthermore, this is just plain wrong, & is also just as unhealthy & ill-advised as using schmaltz. If you do this, please smack yourself, then go home & cry in your matzo ball soup. :)
Some try to take a healthier route by opting for olive oil, which, although it's certainly healthier in comparison, is the wrong flavor & furthermore, way too overpowering, especially extra virgin olive oil. Even if they choose unrefined, cold-pressed oils, these additions are really quite unnecessary. Bah, you really don't need the extra oil; there's more than already enough flavor from the chicken, herbs, spices & vegetables in the soup, which will then be poured over the matzo balls to give them even more flavor. Of course, the matzo balls are going to soak up all these flavors anyhow, so why add insult to injury. There's no mandate that says you have to add oil, no matter what the traditionalists say.
I don't do any of the above & still end up with incredibly flavorful matzo balls. "And exactly how do I accomplish this?" you might ask. OK, let's see if you were paying attention. :) Hint: Re-read the above paragraph & then scroll to the list of ingredients & look at all of the spices I put into the matzo balls. ;)
Yes, this is a flavorful matzo soup recipe that won't give you a coronary. :) So, feel free to thank me for looking out for you & your health. ;)
In fact, if you don't think matzo balls made without oil can still taste good, I dare you to make matzo balls my way, taste them, & then see if you can still work up the chutzpah to tell me they are lacking in flavor! ;) Unless you accidentally botch them like a complete & utter schmuck , I'm telling you that you won't be able to taste the difference. :) OK, just kidding about the schmuck comment; just couldn't resist the excuse to insert another colorful Yiddish expression into this post. :) If this is your first time making matzo balls, never fear. If you just follow this recipe exactly as it's written & don't pat the matzo balls down like an overly zealous TSA screener , you'll probably be just fine. :) After all, making matzo balls isn't rocket science.