Fall Out Of Fall With A Matzah Ball

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

Matzah ball.

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.





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!

24 thoughts on “Fall Out Of Fall With A Matzah Ball”

  1. Hi Adam-

    I wanted to check out that cooking for engineers site you mentioned, but when I clicked the link, it sent me to the Old Fashioned Chicken Soup recipe at Epicurious. :o)

  2. dude,

    it’s yiddish and the closest english rendering would be “sei gesund”.

    as in: be healthy!

    and enjoy the matza ball soup!

  3. Thanks for this – my fiance is jewish and i’ve never cooked anything jewish for him, this sounds like a great first attempt, since he’s sick!

  4. that looks so good. i (along with half of new york i think) am sick and would kill for a pot of that soup! i may have to hunt up some matzah meal tonight.

  5. You can poach chicken really quickly – I’m a little surprised that 20 minutes is enough for breasts and thighs on the bone, but only a little.

    Wanted to tell you that the reason that some books tell you to cook the matzah balls separately (in another pot of water, rather than in the soup) is that cooking them in the soup makes the soup cloudy. I’ve never cared about that, and cooking them in the soup makes the matzah balls much, much tastier because they absorb the soup instead of water.

    Congrats on your first matzah balls. Now try making stuffed ones – dice onion, carrot and celery and pop a little of the mixture inside each matzah ball before you cook it. Yummy!

  6. Jessica,

    My husband is Jewish and I’m not, so one word of advice: don’t be tempted to make the balls the size you eventually want, because they blow up when you cook them.

  7. Looon time stalker, first time commenter (I think). Thanks for this great post. My hubby is Jewish and while I am not, I have longed to make a nice, delicious soup for him from scratch (his mother’s tends to be way to salty for his taste). Thank you for testing the waters out first! Love your blog!

  8. How much salt did you use in the Matzah Balls? I’m always very bad at guessing these sorts of things. It’s also not the sort of thing you can really taste to see if you have added enough.

  9. That looks so good. I will have to stock up on boxes of stock at Trader Joe’s. But I still have ice cubes of my own broth in the freezer… next to the giant turkey… hahaha.

  10. For Nat and Skylar,

    On the salt issue, purchase reduced-sodium chix broth. You could always add more salt as needed :-)

  11. I have a pot of Joan’s Chicken Soup with Loads of Vegetables on the stove AT THIS VERY MINUTE! It’s a great recipe when you have the time. Very impressed with your chicken cutting but I often throw the whole chicken in without cutting. It falls apart anyway. Can’t wait to try the matza balls; mine are always from a box–fool proof.

  12. Oh, THIS seriously impresses me. BIG TIME!!! I can smell that soup through my screen. Must make soup now. Right now. Off to store now.

  13. i am very impressed that you made the matzah balls from scratch. i always use the manischewitz mix but i think it’s time i step it up a notch! i don’t use dill either, and i like that touch as well!

  14. My mom (who is visitng)and I were jst talking about mazto ball soup yesterday! I have serious cravings for this at times AND live in a city without a single jewish restaurant/deli AND have never made it. I think it’s about time. I may try to fit this in tomorrow with about 100 things on the Thanksgiving prep to-do list. Otherwise I’ll be dreaming of matzo ball soup on Tday.

  15. Thanks, Adam — I haven’t had this soup in so long and I’ve never come across a recipe that looked so easy! I will definitely try this. One question — did you peel the chicken? I mean, did you remove the skin before putting it in the broth, or leave it on?

  16. I’m not a food chemist, nor am I Jewish, but I’m going to take a wild guess about the chilled resting.

    As in making a corn starch slurry, you may want this process to occur cold so the starch molecules do not unravel and then rebond together too fast forming lumps. Since there is no leavening in the form of soda or yeast, there is no need to provide heat for a chemical reaction to occurs until the actual cooking takes place.

    I hope that made sense. I’m wicked sick too today so I feel your (sniffly) pain.

  17. Adam: True matzo balls need to be made with SCHMALTZ – not salad oil! This is how to make schmaltz: Buy whole chicken(s). Peel off the fat pockets and put ’em in the freezer When you have a respectable amount – a ball about 1-1/2 inches in size – cut it into pieces while still frozen. Place it in a small cast iron frypan with one chopped onion. Turn heat on low and render slowly. The melted stuff is what you use for your matzo balls. You can eat the browned bits – onions and fat. It even has a name – gribines. Yum!

  18. i add 1 tea sp. baking soda so they are litter . you can make them in many ways adding chicken liver or mushroom . adam you have a good point there.

  19. How should the mixture look before and after refrigeration? Mine has just gone into the frig and looks very dry… Is that normal?

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