April 02, 2007

Matzo Ball Soup

4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 parsnips
4 carrots
4 stalks celery
3 onions (2 large, 1 small-divided use)
3 sprigs fresh sage PLUS 1 tablespoon minced
1 bunch fresh parsley PLUS 2 tablespoons minced
1 large chicken, cut into pieces, skin/fat removed and reserved
2 quarts chicken stock
1 cup white wine (optional)
1 cup matzo meal
1 cup water
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

In a large soup pot, place 1 large onion, quartered; 1 (large) parsnip, halved; bunch parsley; sprigs of sage; 2 celery stalks; chicken pieces; broth and wine. The broth should be covering the chicken. If not, add water or additional to cover. Over high heat, bring to boil then reduce to low and simmer, partially covered for 1 hour, every 10 minutes, skim any scum that floats to the surface off. Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan, add the fat, and the small onion, quartered and cook over medium heat until the fat is rendered. Strain into a heat safe bowl or measuring cup. Boil one cup water and pour it into a bowl with 1 cup matzo meal, stir to combine. Add 3 tablespoons rendered fat (if you don't have 3 tablespoons worth, make up the difference in oil), minced parsley, minced sage, salt, egg and white pepper. Stir to combine, refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut the remain carrots, parsnips, celery and onion into bite sized pieces, set aside. After the soup has cooked for one hour, remove the chicken and place in a bowl. Strain the broth through a fine strainer into another large pot, pressing the solids to release any liquids. Discard solids. To the remaining broth add the cut up onion, carrots, parsnips, and celery. Return the broth to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, remove the mazto meal mixture from the refrigerator and, using wet hands, roll into 1 inch balls. In a another pot, bring a large amount of salted water to boil. Drop the matzo balls into the water and cook 15 minutes, they should float to the top but this does not mean they are ready, cook the full 15 minutes. Pick the chicken off the bone using a fork or your fingers and remove to a a covered bowl. When the vegetables are tender, add the chicken back into the broth.

To serve: place 4 matzo balls in each bowl (should serve 4-6) and ladel the soup over. Serve right away.

My thoughts:
Matzo ball soup is a Passover classic. It is perfect because there is no need for leaveners, something that is forbidden at Passover, and uses matzo meal, which is made of ground matzo, something that is plentiful this time of year. Everyone had their own technique of making matzo balls, but this is my favorite. Not too dense, not too fluffy, the parsley adds a little flavor and they absorb just the right amount of broth. We made them with schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) which gives them a wonderful flavor and has a third of the saturated fat as butter. Matt did a wonderful job of skimming off the broth, it is a little time consuming, but it really results in a super clear yet flavorful soup. One note: if you have any leftovers, store the matzo balls separately and heat them up in boiling water while you reheat the soup, if not, they tend to soak up too much of the liquid and fall apart during storage.