Every year, around this time, it happens. The weather turns cold and I get a cold. And when I get a cold I make chicken soup. But this year, instead of the usual egg noodles I add from the bag, I decided to make my first matzah balls using the recipe from Joan Nathan’s “Jewish Cooking In America.”
Doesn’t that soup look great? Let me let you in on a secret.
In the past I’ve gone the whole nine yards and made everything from scratch—boiling a whole chicken in water with onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, rutabaga, parsley and dill and so on. This makes a very fresh tasting soup but it’s exhausting. Before I ever did that, I used a recipe from Epicurious that I went back to this on this most recent soup making expedition. And you know what? I like it better.
Here’s the recipe. It takes 20 minutes. The secret is that you buy pre-packaged chicken broth.
I know, I know: how is that making soup? Well listen. You boil chicken IN that chicken broth and thus the broth gets twice as chickeny. It’s the chickeniest chicken soup you will ever taste—just look at the picture above. And it takes 20 minutes to cook the chicken—that’s far more appealing than the three hours it takes (and the money it costs) to make it all from scratch.
Anyhoo, it’s time to brag. Guess what? I became a butcher with this soup. The only decent chicken at Key Foods was a whole chicken (they didn’t have a cut-up chicken) so I brought home the whole chicken and decided to cut it up myself. I used the internet (this cooking for engineers post was most helpful) and not only was it easy, it was fun! First you cut off the legs:
You do that by pulling the legs away from the body and then cutting the joint between where the bones attach (it’s easy when you feel it with your knife.)
And then it couldn’t be easier: you cut out the backbone with a pair of kitchen scissors. Once that’s gone you cut the breasts away and cut off the wings:
And that’s it! You’ve cut up a chicken.
[I'm sure I did somthing wrong along the way, feel free to scrutinize me.]
The chicken goes into a pot with the chicken stock and you cook it for 20 minutes (or less) then take it out and your soup’s ready for fixin’s.
The suggested fixin’s in the recipe are carrots, onions and mushrooms. But I was ready to make matzah balls—and hey, isn’t that the title of the post?
Matzah balls are mysterious orbs and I never really understood what they contained. Well here’s what these contain:
4 large eggs
2 Tbs vegetable oil (if you have chicken fat, use that)
1/2 cup chicken broth (if you have seltzer or club soda, use that)
1 cup matzah meal
salt and freshly ground pepper
and I added dill.
This looks like a poem.
Quoth the raven
You mix the eggs together with a fork (crack them first). Then you add all the other ingredients and mix well.
Here’s the tricky part: you cover it and refrigerate for several hours.
I IS HUNGRY
I HAS MADE SOUP ALREADY
I DONT GOT THE TIME
When I first assembled the batter it was very soupy. So I added more matzah meal (a big NO NO according to the barefoot contessa (I read her recipe too)). So I stopped before it got too stiff and put it in the fridge for the 30 minutes and let the chicken cool outside of the pot.
When I returned to the fridge the batter really did transform: apparently the refrigeration makes it thicker. (How? Why? Where’s Mr. Jewish Wizard when you need him?)
Then it’s easy. You dip your hands in cold water and make matzah balls that “are slightly smaller than Ping-Pong balls.”
Ok, mine were slightly bigger than ping pong balls but this was a ping pong table in Jewish Giant Land. You bring the soup to a boil (Joan Nathan says to boil them in water, but the barefoot contessa says use broth—I say, if you’re making soup anyway, why not boil them in the soup?) and drop them in. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until soft.
And so into the pot it went, 30 minutes went by, and behold:
Fluffy, wonderful matzah balls. These were top notch: as good as the ones at the dearly departed 2nd Ave. Deli. And so easy to make! Now that I have matzah meal in my cabinet, I’ll definitely make these again. All I need’s another cold. (To which my mom would say, “Zeyde Ga Zink” (I always thought it was zygazint) which apparently means: to good health. So to all of you, Zeyde Ga Zink!
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