Matzo ball soup (also affectionately known as "Jewish Penicillin") can be simply described as flour dumplings served in chicken soup, but when prepared properly becomes much more than the meager sum of its basic ingredients - it becomes comfort food. Depending on the recipe (or the family), the matzo balls can be solid and dense or light and almost pillowy, but the ingredients almost always remain the same: superbly prepared chicken stock, matzo (an unleavened bread) or matzo meal (ground up matzos), eggs, and a little chicken fat. This recipe can be altered to produce heavier matzo balls (with a bit more oil and a little less broth in the balls) or lighter matzo balls (by using egg whites whipped to soft peaks).
First, prepare a batch of chicken stock. The chicken soup used as a base for matzo ball soup varies from family to family, but most often I've heard the use of a light, clarified broth. In my recipe, I like to use a very hearty stock filled with gelatin - which can only be attained through hours of long simmering. This additional protein provides a wonderful mouth feel to the stock and any soups you make with it. If you don't have time to make your own stock, make sure you buy a chicken broth that you enjoy, because it is the dominant ingredient in this dish. Good chicken stock equals good matzo ball soup.
After the stock has been made, simply shock it down in ice water and refrigerate overnight. The fat in the stock rises to the top and solidifies. Prior to reheating, remove the fat (sweeping with a sieve works well). This chicken fat, known as schmaltz, can be used as one of the ingredients for the matzo balls.
The matzo balls will need 2 matzos, 2 tablespoons (30 mL) chicken stock, 2 tablespoons (30 mL) vegetable oil or melted schmaltz (schmaltz will produce better flavor but, for many homes, may not be readily available unless you have just made the chicken stock), and 2 large (100 g) eggs. [IMG]
Matzos are unleavened bread made out of only two ingredients - Passover flour and water. Modern, machine-made matzos resemble large crackers or wafers. The matzos are unleavened (no rising agents such as yeast or even chemical leavens like baking powder) and are primarily associated with Passover, the commemoration of the Israelite exodus from captivity in Egypt. The word "Passover" refers to the passing over by the angel of death of the marked houses during the final plague visited upon the land of Egypt before Pharaoh authorized the release of the Israelites. The matzo is important as a symbol because the Israelites left Egypt in such haste that they did not have time to allow their bread to rise. In many countries, matzo is available all year, but in many places the commercial matzo found outside of the Passover season can often be non-kosher.
For this recipe, we need to grind up the matzos into a matzo meal (about 1/2 cup). This can be easily accomplished by sending the two matzos through a food processor fitted with the standard blade or using a blender. I did a quick experiment to see which worked better. The food processor broke down the matzos quickly, but even after a few minutes of pulsing, the matzo meal was a bit coarse.[IMG] Using the blender resulted in a much finer grind, but took a bit more work initially to break down the matzos. Using two second pulses at varying speeds did the trick and within two minutes, the matzo meal was ready. Both methods will yield matzo meal that will work fine with this recipe, so use whatever appliance you have on hand. The only difference is that the coarse ground meal from the food processor may need to rest a bit longer with the liquids. [IMG] In a mixing bowl, whisk the two eggs, two tablespoons chicken stock, and two tablespoons of fat (schmaltz or vegetable oil). [IMG]
Add the 1/2 cup (60 g) matzo meal to the liquid ingredients. At this time, you should also decide how much pepper to add. I use about 1/4 teaspoon as a starting point and adjust up or down as my mood dictates. Many people say adding more pepper helps increase the supposed curative properties of matzo ball soup. I don't know if it actually helps healing, but I do know ground black pepper does help clear the sinuses and it tastes good. Stir until evenly combined. [IMG]
Allow the matzo ball batter to sit while you bring two quarts (1.9 L) of chicken stock to a rolling boil. Once the stock is boiling, reduce the heat to allow a simmer and season with salt and pepper to taste. (I make my chicken stock without salt and freeze it for storage. Later, I can season with salt for the appropriate application.) [IMG]
By this point, the matzo meal has absorbed a good deal of the liquid and the batter is workable. Give it a gentle mix to make sure it is evenly combined. This is also a good time to add any extra ingredients you may want in your matzo balls (such as finely chopped green onions). [IMG]
Prepare a small bowl with some water in it to keep your hands wet as you work the matzo balls into shape. Place the water bowl and the matzo ball batter near the simmering stock and begin to form matzo balls and drop them gently into the stock.
Using a tablespoon measure, scoop up about 1-1/2 tablespoons (a heaping tablespoon) of the matzo ball batter. Using wet hands, roll them into balls. [IMG]
As they are formed, drop each ball into the simmering stock. [IMG]
Reapply water to your hands to keep them wet and continue scooping out batter, forming balls, and dropping them into the stock. This recipe yields approximately six matzo balls.
Depending on the density of the chicken stock, the matzo balls will either drop to the bottom or float. A watery, thin stock will allow the matzo balls to sink and enables the traditional method of telling when a matzo ball is done cooking - when it floats to the surface. Since I like my stock with a lot of gelatin, my matzo balls will always float. [IMG]
I belive that even if the matzo balls are considered "done", you should allow them to simmer in the stock longer to take on more flavor. So, let them simmer for at least 15 minutes from the time you dropped in the last matzo ball. By this time the matzo balls will be plump and floating (or floating even higher if you use a thick stock like I do). I also like adding a peeled carrot cut into 1-in. segments to the matzo ball soup as is simmers. [IMG]
Serve into six bowls with a matzo ball each, or the into two bowls with three matzo balls if you're trying to pamper someone. [IMG]
I've a vegetarian, and an asthmatic, and when I had pneumonia this past winter my pulmonologist (lung disease specialist) insisted that I relax the vegetarianism a bit and eat some of my mother's matzo soup to help break up the nasty coughing. And it *works*. So yes, we can say that matzo soup really is doctor recommended!
Posted: Thu Apr 06, 2006 7:03 pm Post subject: For your engineering side...
I believe the first serious effort to show a physiologic basis for a benefit of chicken soup was Saketkhoo et al (PMID: 359266). Much, but not all, of the benefit was available from drinking hot water. That said, matzah ball soup is much tastier.
Posted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 10:12 pm Post subject: Award winning Matzo Balls...
I first saw this in the NY Times Passover Cookbook, but it seems to have spread well beyond that. The technique works... Best I can figure, putting the batter in the freezer keeps the core from seizing up before the rest of it can cook. The Vodka, in my estimation acts as an antifreeze agent.
Posted: Mon May 29, 2006 3:29 pm Post subject: No rolling for matzah balls!
I must insist on a different prep technique. In my family, we have a "no roll" rule. Matzah balls are at their best and fluffiest if you simply break of chunks and very lightly form them in your hands. It is okay to lightly pull off or barely press ragged edges back into the ball, but if you are tempted to start rolling it into a regular shape you will get a much harder matzah ball. In my opinion, the best matzah balls are extremely light and fluffy. Try it - I bet you'll like it!!
I also recommend adding large slices of carrots (slice at a >45 degree angle) that you let cook for a long time so they are as tender as the matzah balls. Sometimes I put in a little bit of greens that I chop coursely and wilt in the stock. I'm a vegetarian, so I have found starting with a good mushroom/veggie stock and adding in a little poultry seasoning (no chicken in it - just the tradditional spices used to season chicken) make this soup fantastic.
If you want to go for true delicious Jewish food, start with Charoset. That remains my favorite Passover food! Chopped apples, nuts, wine, dried fruit, sometimes a little raspberry jam - let is soak for a while and then eat it on Matzah. Delicious!! The trick for me is to keep the apples chopped very coursely (real chunks, maybe a couple mm by a couple mm), and to use a mix of granny smith (or other tart) and fuji (or other firm)
Posted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 9:16 pm Post subject: Am I the only one who /likes/ my matzo balls firm?..
In my opinion, the listed method of rolling the matzo balls is /perfect/ but then, I like them firm; the fluffy ones just don't have the heartiness for me.
The best Matzo balls, in my opinion, really do need to be made with the schmaltz, it's just not the same without it. Usually this means making the soup a day or two before, and chilling it to get the schmaltz (I also think soup is a lot better after the schmaltz has been collected; when time allows I like to refrigerate for 2 days to get as much of the fat out as possible; because the layer seems to slow the process once it forms, I remove the schmaltz twice, once after 24hours, and then again after 48, just before reheating).
As for the carrots, I'm not personally a fan; I tend to make my soup with onions, garlic, Chicken (ofcourse), and occasionally some other root veggies of choice based on availability, but I strain it out before serving. Occasionally, for a more interesting/thicker soup, I'll puree a small amount of the veggies (not all of them, I don't want a cream soup) and put them back in, sometimes with some Horseradish for an unexpected touch. This makes the soup a little thicker, but adds a great depth to the flavor; a bit of Pureed Garlic and Onion (and I'll sometimes use fresh garlic for a sharper kick, added at the last minute so it doesn't cook sweet, along with the horseradish if I use it) really livens up the soup.
Posted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 4:41 pm Post subject: super cold-killer Mexican Matzo Soup!
Instead of using chicken soup I like to simmer the matzo balls in Sopa de Ajo -- a Mexican/Spanish garlic soup: saute 1 finely chopped onion and 1 minced head of garlic (1 HEAD, not clove) in a little olive oil until it starts to brown, then add 1 1/2 litres of stock and a few sprigs of chopped parsley. If you like you can add other veggies such as carrots at this point. Bring to a boil and drop in your matzo balls.
This combines the healing powers of garlic with the soothing comfort of matzo ball soup -- guaranteed to scare away any cold & flu bugs, as well as werewolves and vampires...and possibly other people as well. Remember to brush your teeth after having this soup.
Posted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 10:46 pm Post subject: Not my Granmum's soup...
I'm not so impressed with these matzo balls. I like them fluffy, but these turned out very heavy and a bit dry. After halving the recipe, I had to use a full three tablespoons of stock just to get the batter started. Next time, I may try adding even more stock as I suspect the dryness may be due to the fact that the matzo meal didn't absorb enough. It's a good base recipe, but could use some improvement. Regardless, I would encourage adding some veggies to the stock.
Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 4:19 am Post subject: Matzo (Matzah) Ball Soup
In the early 60's I was in the March on Washington. I was so caught up in the demonstration that I failed to eat for a day or so and i found my way into DC where i had a bowl of Matzo Ball Soup. To this day that was the finest bowl of soup I ever had.
Thank you for this recipe.