Master of the Matzo Ball
Herbed Matzo Ball Soup with homemade chicken stock. | Photo by Melissa Elsmo
Herbed Matzo Ball Soup with Flavors of Spring
I used dill sprigs, asparagus tips and cuts of leek, carrot and peapods to garnish my matzo ball soup. Serves 8-10.
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup of matzo meal or unsalted matzo crackers crushed in a food processor
2 tablespoons of seltzer water
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of chopped dill, plus extra sprigs for garnish
1 tablespoon of chopped chives
2 teaspoons of parsley, minced
¾ teaspoon of kosher salt
¼ teaspoon of white pepper
8 cups of slow cooker chicken stock (recipe follows)
1 garlic clove, minced
Assorted cut spring vegetables for garnish
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, matzo, seltzer, oil, dill, chives, parsley, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. When well mixed, wet hands and shape mixture into 1 ½ inch uniform balls. Reduce the heat to bring the boiling water to a simmer and drop the matzo balls into water (you’ll have 8-10 matzo balls). Cover the pot and allow to cook undisturbed for 30 minutes. Meanwhile bring the crock pot chicken stock to a simmer with the garlic. Add the desired garnishes to the stock and simmer until just cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to transfer one matzo ball to each of 8 soup bowls. Divide the cooked vegetables and reserved dill sprigs into each bowl. Ladle the hot broth into the bowls.
slow Cooker Chicken Stock
Stock making is easier than ever when allowed to cook unattended in a convenient slow cooker. Chicken wings make fabulous stock because of their high gelatin content, but you could use a chicken carcass or whole chicken as a substitute. I often let it cook overnight. Makes about two quarts.
2 pounds chicken wings (about 8 whole wings)
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into eighths
4 celery stalks with leaves, cut into 2-inch lengths
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 turnip, cut into eighths
6 parsley sprigs, leaves and stems
10 white peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of coarse salt
½ cup of white wine
7 cups cold water
Combine all ingredients in a large crock pot; there should be at least 1 inch of space between the liquid and the lid. Cook on low for 12 hours. Strain the stock, discard the solids and refrigerate overnight. Good stock will look like gelatin when it is cold. Scrape the fat from the surface before using in recipes.
Updated: March 26, 2013 7:56AM
Matzo is a welcome addition to any Passover seder dinner menu as unleavened breads serve as a reminder that the Israelites had no time to let their bread rise as they were fleeing Egypt.
I am not much of an authority on Passover or matzo ball soup for that matter, but dinner parties are my specialty and nothing sets the tone for an impressive meal on a food-centric holiday better than a lovely first course soup.
Just like a poorly prepared chicken noodle soup can deteriorate into a salty mouthful of mushy noodles, an improperly tended to matzo ball soup can lead to disappointment. Deli convention frequently dictates that matzo balls, made from unleavened cracker bread, are dense, one-note garnishes for a greasy chicken broth studded with nothing more than a few measly carrots. Elevating the simplistic dish to Passover worthy fare, however, isn’t as complicated as you might imagine.
A matzo ball novice, I consulted my favorite trifecta of reliable food sources before attempting to create my own version of this iconic Jewish comfort food. The New York Times, Epicurious and Smitten Kitchen all had similar things to say; it turns out there isn’t a whole lot of variation in the basics of matzo-ball making. Most recipes call for little more than cracker meal, eggs, fat and a dash of liquid to form into balls and simmer in water until tender. With such a limited ingredient list, producing a flavorful soup seemed foolproof.
Traditionally matzo balls contain solidified chicken fat known as schmaltz, but I wanted to lighten my recipe with a dash of olive oil. I opted to grind my own matzo meal from unsalted matzo crackers, added a trio of fresh herbs for color, and gave a nod to passionate Jewish cooks everywhere by using bubbling seltzer water to bring lightness to my finished matzo balls. I was pleased to discover the resulting matzo balls were light without being wimpy and they were flavorful to boot.
With the challenge of making matzo balls behind me, I knew homemade chicken stock would be essential to make the star ingredient shine. Thankfully an easy slow cooker chicken stock produces pristine flavor without any fuss. An array of vibrant spring vegetable garnishes finish off the soup and results in a visually appealing dish with a deceptively complex flavor.
This comforting and delightful soup is sure to have a welcome place at your Passover seder dinner. Your family and friends will appreciate an attention to detail that yields impressive results, but they’ll never know how simple it was. You can become the master of the matzo ball, too!