Thursday, October 18, 2012

Matzo Ball Soup

How do I love Matzo ball soup? Let me count the ways...First time I had Matzo ball soup was at Cantor's Deli in the Fairfax district near West Hollywood more than 20 years ago. It was past midnight, had the munchies, and what better way to quell the hunger pangs than a late night excursion to a Jewish deli? Doesn't get better than that!

I was hooked from that point on. I've noted over the years that matzo balls can run the gamut between light and fluffy to dense and chewy. I'm definitely not a fan of dense and chewy. Anyhoo, I recently watched an episode of Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Made" and Ron Ben-Israel's recipe for Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls" seemed like a winner: 

This recipe is my adaptation of Ron's. Differences are that I used 2 large onions instead of 4 medium, I added 1 tsp. of coriander seeds, 3 sprigs of fresh dill, 4 tsp. of kosher salt (instead of sea salt), 2 fresh bay leaves (instead of dried) to the broth. Also, I cooked a whole chicken (rather than chicken parts) in the broth stovetop for about 4 hours rather than using a pressure cooker. IMHO, the broth came out great and the matzo balls were super tender. But if anyone has a better matzo ball/chicken soup recipe, then please, please tell me now!

5 lbs. whole chicken
10 cloves garlic, peeled
6 stalks celery, cut into large dice
4 carrots, peeled and cut into large dice
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
1 bunch of fresh Italian parsley
3 sprigs of fresh dill
1 tsp. coriander seed
4 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. whole peppercorn
4 cloves
2 bay leaves (fresh preferable)

Matzo Balls:
1/4- 1/2 cup of selzer water
2 tbsp. of schmaltz (chicken fat), at room temp.
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch of black pepper
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup matzo meal

2-3 carrots, peeled & cut on the bias
3-4 celery stalks, cut on the bias
3-4 sprigs of fresh dill
Shredded chicken from the poached chicken in the above recipe

1. Place the chicken (make sure to remove giblets beforehand if they are in the cavity) in a large stock pot. Add the garlic, celery, carrots, onion, fresh parsley, dill, coriander seed, salt, peppercorns, cloves and bay leaves.

2. Add 24 cups of water (or enough to cover the chicken by about 1 inch), bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 4 hours, skimming off the scum as it surfaces in the broth. 

3. Place a layer of cheesecloth over a colander. Strain the chicken broth through the colander into a large bowl. Remove the chicken to a separate bowl and discard the remaining solids. Cover and refrigerate the broth for at least 2-3 hours or overnight.

4. Separate the chicken meat from the bones by hand and place the meat into a container. Refrigerate until ready to use.

5. For the matzo balls: whisk together the eggs, salt, pepper, chicken fat, and selzer until blended. 

6. In another bowl, stir together the baking soda and matzo meal. Combine the matzo meal mixture with the egg mixture and stir well. The mixture should be watery - if not, add a little more selzer water to loosen the mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

7. Fill a medium stock pot with water and add 2 tsp. of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Take the matzo meal mixture out of the frig. Wet your hands and shape about 6-7 balls out of the matzo mixture. Place on a plate or baking sheet. Drop the matzo balls gently into the simmering water. Let simmer for about 1 hour or until tender. The matzo balls will have doubled in size by now. 

8. In the meantime, blanch the sliced carrots and celery in the broth for about 5-10 minutes or until al dente. Remove and set aside.

9. Reheat the reserved chicken broth until simmering. Add the shredded chicken meat and matzo balls to the stock. 

10. To serve: ladle the chicken broth, along with a matzo ball and some shredded chicken, into a serving bowl. Garnish with cooked carrot, celery slices, and a sprig of fresh dill. 

5 lb. whole chicken.

Chicken, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaves, parsley, peppercorns, and cloves.

Coriander seed, black peppercorns & whole cloves.

Strain the stock through a cheesecloth-lined colander.

Shredded chicken.

Refrigerate the stock covered for 2-3 hours or overnight. The chicken fat will congeal on the surface. Skim off and discard all but 2 tbsp. This is the "Schmalz" or rendered chicken fat that gives these matzo balls their great flavor.

"Schmalz" or rendered chicken fat.

Whisk together the eggs, selzer water, salt, pepper, and schmalz.

Combine the matzo meal and baking soda in a separate bowl.

Stir the matzo meal mixture together with the egg mixture. If too stiff, add some extra selzer water. the consistency should be that of a watery porridge. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. 

Black pepper, baking soda and matzo meal.

Carrots and celery sliced on the bias.

Cook the celery and carrots 5-10 minutes in the broth until al dente. Remove and set aside.

Simmer the matzo balls in lightly salted water for about 1 hour or until tender.

Blanch the sliced carrots and celery in the broth for 5-10 minutes or until al dente. Remove and set aside.

Add the shredded chicken to the broth.

Add the matzo balls to the soup. Bring to a simmer until hot. The matzo balls will have doubled in size by now.

Ladle one matzo ball into each serving bowl. Add some chicken, celery & carrot slices to the bowls. Garnish with a sprig of fresh dill. Ok to refrigerate any leftover matzo balls in broth for about 2-3 days. 

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