What are matzo balls? They are a kind of dumpling made from a holiday cracker called matzo. Matzo is eaten during the Passover holiday to symbolize the haste with which the Isrealites were compelled to flee Egypt (they did not even have time for their bread to rise). During the week long Passover holiday, out of respect for our harried ancestors, we are forbidden to eat all foods which are leavened. Matzo becomes fairly important to a lot of dishes during that week. It is scrambled with eggs and served with jam (called Matzo Brei); it is used as a binder in holiday casseroles (such as savory kugels--a dense casserole resembling a kind of pudding); a very popular use for it is as a dumpling in chicken soup. These dumplings are so popular the dish is named for them: matzo ball soup. Matzo balls can be large or enormous, light and soft or dense and chewy. They are made according to the cook's preference. My ideal matzo ball is on the small side, light and soft with just a little bit of bite.
I may seem like a lot of work for one pot of soup, but this chicken soup is flavorful and immensely satisfying (especially as we start to catch change of the season colds). If anyone in our house has the sniffles I leave the skin on the chicken. This is because of a homeopathic belief that chicken fat has natural antibiotics.
Matzo Ball & Chicken Soup
Makes 16 servings
32 ounces organic chicken stock
1 whole (~5 lbs) chicken, broken down
16 ounces mirepoix
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1. In a stockpot over medium heat, add olive oil. Add mirepoix, thyme, a pinch of salt and pepper and the bayleaf. Saute until mirepoix has softened and become fragrant (approx 5 minutes).
2. Rinse chicken pieces under cold water and add to stock pot. Add stock, then water to cover.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 20 - 25 minutes, or until chicken breasts are cooked through. Remove chicken breasts and when they are cool enough to handle, remove meat and return bones to the stock pot. Simmer dark meat for another 20 minutes, then remove, pull from bones and return bones to the pot.
4. Cook on the lowest setting for an additional 40 - 60 minutes, skimming the fat off of the surface occasionally.
5. When needed, strain broth and bring to a boil to cook the matzo balls (see below).
4 jumbo eggs
1 1/2 cups matzoh meal
1/4 cup neutral oil*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 ounces carbonated water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1. Whisk together egg and oil (or schmaltz). Mix in matzoh meal, salt, baking powder and soda water.
2. Set in fridge for 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, strain 8 cups of soup into a pot with a tightly fitted lid. Bring to a boil.
4. Form balls approximately 1" diameter.
5. Place balls in boiling soup. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Cook the balls in two batches to give them enough room to expand.
Serve dumplings in broth with chicken meat.
*Substitute schmaltz if you should have some in your pantry