9.06.2010

The Real Deal


There was a small restaurant in a strip mall in Michigan...a joint really...but a group of us met there for breakfast or lunch fairly often. It was in our neighborhood and their steel cut oatmeal was the morning draw. The place was always hot, crowded (everyone knew a good thing when they tasted it) and the wait staff was wonderful.

I was devastated to learn on one of my trips north recently that our old hangout had closed. Nobody ever heard an explanation. I'm doubly sad because the one thing I always ordered for lunch, without fail, was their matzoh ball soup. Now I've tried a lot of matzoh ball soups and aside from Wolfie's in Ft. Lauderdale, now also closed, I've never had one that came close to theirs. Yes, you're all going to comment that I should try such and such and I wish I could, but trust me when I say this soup was a winner. No fussing around...just great chicken broth with two lovely, light matzoh balls in it. It's all about the broth, isn't it?

What I know about traditional Jewish cooking is zilch. I've made Kugel, yes. Probably not a traditional recipe either. But matzoh ball soup? Nope. Never made it. Which is odd because I do make my mother's chicken broth on regular basis. So I've got that part down pat. If I can't get that soup at my favorite dive any more, I'm just going to have to make it myself.

So. I began with Mother's chicken broth and stuck it in the fridge overnight. Please go here for a printable recipe. Use any veggies you want. (I hope you all keep a bag in your freezer to save pieces of leftover fresh veggies and chicken bones until you have enough to make some stock. So simple to do and it makes such a difference in your cooking.)


And rendering chicken fat? A new one on me. It appears that rendered chicken fat (also called schmaltz) is an integral part of a matzoh ball. And a lot of other dishes as well. I had saved chicken fat from some chickens I cooked and froze it. It didn't seem enough to me, so I asked the butcher for some more. He directed me to the freezer and there were packages of it. A smaller market might actually be willing to save it for you free of charge...although I'm not sure anyone does free of charge anymore. Please go here for a printable recipe for "schmaltz". Bring the schmaltz to room temperature before making the matzoh balls.


Now as far as the matzoh balls are concerned, there are a lot of recipes out there. But I wanted pure soup....without noodles, chicken or veggies..... although I added a sprig of thyme, a mushroom and a carrot to mine, but merely for presentation, and plain old fashioned light-as-air matzoh balls. Ina Garten uses parsley in her recipe and egg whites for lightness (everyone else said seltzer) and because I think she knows what she's doing, I made her recipe, sans parsley, which I am not overly fond of to begin with. But just to cover my bases, I also made an old New York Times matzoh ball recipe with seltzer just to compare. 

Ina's were problematic; they were so airy I could barely form them into balls, even after refrigeration. The ones with seltzer were somewhat denser and were a cinch to form into balls; later, when I bit into each of them, they were nearly the same. So I am only going to give you the recipe I found in the New York Times. You can go online and try Ina's if you want...as I said she used lots of parsley in hers; anyway I found hers way too difficult to handle resulting in practically no difference in texture. (The ones with more holes in the photo below were Ina's, but both were equally light.)


Now my Jewish readers will probably jump all over this recipe and I can't wait to read the comments. But if I do say so myself, this soup was perfect.
 

And remember, fall is nearly here with cold and flu season not far off. The very least you should do is make a big pot of broth and freeze it in several containers, ready to go. There is NOTHING better than chicken soup when you feel lousy. Actually, even when you feel good!

Matzoh Ball Soup


Ingredients:
homemade chicken broth
schmaltz


For the matzoh balls:

1 cup matzo meal

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons schmaltz (rendered seasoned chicken fat) at room temperature

1 tablespoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ cup seltzer


Method:

Mix all matzo ball ingredients in a bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Bring some salted water to a boil in a pot. Reduce heat; form matzo balls by taking spoonfuls of the batter into the palm of your wet hands and rolling them loosely into balls. Drop them into the simmering salt water one at a time. Cover the pot and cook them for 30 to 40 minutes.
Then bring your chicken stock to a simmer. Serve your stock with two matzoh balls.

62 comments:

  1. Great recipe and story Barbara. I must admit I've never ever tried matzoh ball soup, but if yours is anything to go by, I'm definitely giving it a go. As for chicken broth (or stock), I always use the bones leftover from a whole roasted chicken :) It has a lovely flavour to it.

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  2. What a lovely matzoh ball soup! I love matzoh balls...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  3. This is where I confess that I've never had matzoh ball soup. I might have to give it a whirl the next cool weekend though!

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  4. I save every bit of vegetable scrap in the freezer too and believe that's the secret to a good broth. I've never made matzoh ball soup and would love to try it.

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  5. Beautifully done. Comfort food at its finest. I love how your broth is so nice and clear.
    My mom had her own version of this dish, not the real deal at all, but inside the matzoh ball dumplings were little meatballs. As a kid I used to eat the meatball and leave the rest LOL. I was naughty.
    *kisses* HH

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  6. Barbara, this is a guilty secret... I have lived in NY for most of my adult life and never had matzoh ball soup...isn't that awful? I guess I thought that they looked like leaden death balls in the bowl when I've seen them and that put me off. You have never steered my wrong... I think it's about time I took the plunge.

    Thanks for all the great tips (I save parsley stems for soup too as well as all those lovely bones and My St. Bernard, Petunia, loves the meat I pull off after the long cook... I have bags of stock in the freezer in different sizes and use it for everything.

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  7. That looks so much like comfort food..It's chilly where I live..ideal!

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  8. Hey Barbara, my Cauldron Boy says one of the only things he misses about his mother's cooking is her matzoh ball soup! Apparently, she made a nice one. I can't imagine that it would be better than this though-you did everything homemade. That's nice! I'm going to show this to him...

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  9. Shana Tovah! I've heard the rumors about the miraculousness that is using seltzer in matzoh balls, but never tried it myself. Maybe this is my year!

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  10. I do make a good chicken stock, but have never used rendered chicken fat. What do you do with it? So sad that your restaurant closed. We had a little joint in my hometown, Sunshine Cafe, that closed after years and years of serving up some great food. At least you learned how to make this good soup.

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  11. Oh it does look wonderful I am a big fan of Matzoh ball soup. Love your photo!

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  12. I have always wanted to make matzoh ball soup. You have convinced me to give it a try!

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  13. Looks just like my grandma used to make :) She used schmaltz and seltzer, from those old time seltzer bottles! Your matzoh ball look perfect!

    Wolfies! YES! We used to go to Pumpernick's, too.

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  14. It looks lovely, even with the carrot, thyme and mushroom! I haven't made matzoh ball soup yet, but with all your tips I think I'll try! Isn't it funny what us foodies will do for just the right thing? Love it!

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  15. I do keep bags in the freezer with vegetable odds and ends and chicken parts. It makes it so easy to make stock! And, yours looks great. I've never made matzo balls, but I'd love to try it!

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  16. Isn't it sad when a place you love closes like that? I don't know much about Jewish cooking (I would love to learn more though!), but I think your matzoh ball soup looks perfect. And the presentation is gorgeous, Barbara!

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  17. Wonderful dish. Great flavors and beautifully cooked.

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  18. Thank you for such a detailed description of this amazing-sounding recipe! I'd love to give this a try.

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  19. I know zilch about Jewish cooking. In fact I've never tasted Matzoh ball soup. Yours looks delicious. Perhaps it's not to late to give it a try.

    I'm sad to hear that your old hangout closed. What is the world coming to.
    Sam

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  20. Hi Barbara,

    Sorry that one of your favourite restaurants has closed, it is really sad. I feel the same about a Japanese Restaurant, Ariake, where we used to go a lot and it closed a few weeks back.
    I have never heard of Matzoh ball soup, so it was good to learn something new, thank you.
    I always make my own chicken stock with the bones, tastes so much better and love the flavour and how thick and jelly like, it is.

    Happy week
    Hugs
    Carolyn

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  21. I must also admit to never having even tried matzoh ball soup, let alone making it myself. This is certainly worth a try!!

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  22. I'm gone my whole life and never had matzoh ball soup. I've often heard about it, but never knew how to make it before. So fun to hear your experiences.

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  23. Your matzo ball soup sounds excellent! The matzo balls look super light! We eat it a lot for all the holidays but either my mom or my mother in law always make it and I've actually never made it myself :)

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  24. Oh my goodness Barbara, this looks delish! I think you have made a believer out of me, about making my own broths. I am a rather lazy cook, but this I can do.
    I so enjoyed your vacation post. What a lovely place to visit. It sounds as if you had a very difficult time leaving this gorgeous place. And I don't blame you one bit. After twenty years you probably feel right at home there.
    hugs to you...

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  25. I LOVE your new banner! You have so many culinary traditions in your country. I never heard of this soup, and I almost passed out at the schmaltz (I'm having my morning coffee right now), I think I'm more of a mediterranean olive oil kind of person:)

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  26. A friend in Paris made me matzo ball soup once, but I suspect it was from a can, certainly not homemade and I can't say I was impressed; here however the soup shines and I am tempted to try it; I like the purem unadultaated version you came up with and the plating of it: very elegant.

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  27. Hi Barbara,
    Matzoh ball soup is one that I've not tried yet, will have to remedy that situation asap.
    Your recipes are always so easy to follow, thanks for another good one.

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  28. I'm not Jewish but I love a really good matzo ball soup. Those pillows of soup-stuffed matzo ball goodness? Amazing. These look delicious.

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  29. What a gorgeous soup - the broth is crystal clear and just looks divine! I've never made matzo ball soup and honestly, I think I've only eaten it a couple of times - and devoured every bite - so why haven't I tried making it at home? I think it's because those matzo balls looked like they would be hard to master and I didn't want to end up with a dumpling. I think I may try this Barbara!

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  30. You rendered shmaltz? Duuuude. You are hard core. However, this looks like the perfect thing for a case of the sniffles.

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  31. Like some of your other commentors I have never tried Matzoh Ball soup either! Your photo looks so pretty I think I might have to run out and get some right now though:) Thanks for sharing you experience & so glad you were able to recreate the soup you loved so much - Cheers!

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  32. Hi Barbara! Fall was in the air here this past weekend with lower temps and all, and these recipes seem like the perfect Fall comfort food!!! Hope you enjoyed the holiday weekend...

    Hugs ~

    :) T

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  33. I have never had matzo ball soup before. Barbara, you really amaze me! Everything is from scratch! This is a great post.

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  34. Barbara, I think the soup sounds as good as it looks. Clean & clear and must have tasted marvellous with the addition of meat ball. Yumm.... Hope you're enjoying you day.
    Cheers, kristy

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  35. Your soup looks delicious, Barbara. Any feedback you get will be positive. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

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  36. I haven't been here for such a long time and have missed your posts dear Barbara. I can totally empathise with that feeling when you learn a beloved place has closed, especially when you didn't get a chance to go there one last time. Still, I'm glad to see you've been busy cooking up a storm. I've never tried this kind of soup but it looks absolutely amazing and well done to you for creating something so wonderful and trying to keep those memmories alive!

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  37. Une soupe qui semble vraiment délicieuse.
    j'en aurai bien mangé une assiette.
    Bonne semaine et à bientôt.

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  38. oh wow, it looks so comforting and yummy! i've never even tried matzoh ball soup, let alone make it, but i want to now!

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  39. This is exactly what I need right now! A big bowl of comfort! Yum!

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  40. Barbara, I just made matzoh ball soup once..and was not very happy with the outcome...yours look yummie, and I like it without noodle as well but will keep the chicken ;-)

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  41. I know the disappointment of a place like that closing - so sad! Your matzoh ball soup looks perfect- great job! Perfect for the cool weather ahead.

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  42. To this day I have never made matza ball soup, but have always wanted to. And now I have no excuse!

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  43. Ive never had matzoh ball soup but it looks perfect! Sorry about the favorite hang out. I hate when stuff like that happens.

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  44. Your soup looks so good to me on this cool, windy evening! I've never tried making matzo balls myself since I usually make my mother's potato dumpling recipe but yours look perfectly delicious and I'd love to try making them. Your directions are wonderful and very comprehensive!

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  45. Barbara dearest, ARE YOU JEWISH???? I LOVE JEWISH FOOD! Chicken soup à la matzo ball.....what is it about this that is so comforting....THANK YOU FOR VISITING ME TODAY! I had a 12 hour day, but that is the life of a teacher. I have to cut it off and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH...tomorrow is another day.

    Have a lovely evening! Anita

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  46. I made matzoh ball soup once before and they were dense and heavy just like rocks. I will certainly have to give your delicious recipe a try. These turned out wonderful!

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  47. What a gorgeous bowl of soup...I have never eaten matzo ball soup, but I'd love to try yours.
    Too bad that your favorite place closed, but at least you can make the soup now.

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  48. I've never tasted matzoh ball soup. I love the way you've prepared your bowl of soup with the lovely sprig and slice of mushroom. Very pretty!

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  49. i know very little about traditional jewish fare, but i must say this--i LOVE yiddish. how can you not smile saying words like schmaltz? :) shalom, barbara!

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  50. oh this looks amazing I always wanted it to make it and wow your hols sound awesome Rebecca

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  51. wow, I'm impressed -that soup looks wonderful!

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  52. I'm like you Barbara, I only know the Jewish food that I've eaten and enjoyed but matzoh ball soup has a very special place in my tummy. I adore it and yours looks perfect! :D

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  53. Looks great Barbara. I have to admit I don't think I've had any Jewish food - so this is a first. The matzoh balls look lovely and fluffy, I would be very intertested in trying them

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  54. I am very fascinated and attracted to Jewish cuisine too:-)
    I almost thought, if am there , will hop by and there u tell me its closed:-(
    Nice story and even better Matzoh Ball Soup...looks absolutely hearty and delicous!!
    And i agree a good chicken soup [with a blob of butter] is good at a time when with flu or not:-)_
    Great to be back n missed ya too!!!

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  55. By d wat loved ur soup plate too:-)what brand is it from?

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  56. Hi Barbara, For a number of years, I catered Seder for a local Temple; we used to make Matzoh Ball Soup for 150! Out of the experience, it became a favorite soup--rich broth and light spongy matzoh balls. We didn't use seltzer, though. Each year we were asked, "Are they sinkers or floaters?" (Sometimes people have trouble with the matzoh balls, and they are too dense, and sink!)

    wonderful post--

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  57. oh we used to have a wonderful jewish family that lived nearby...love their food...and we got to experience seder as well...

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  58. Barbara...I'm so glad we all band together to try new things in our kitchen...and you really seemed to have succeeded this one well.
    Sorry about that precious eatery closing...it kinda feels the same when the restaurant is taken over by a new management :( not always a good idea.

    Ciao for now and flavourful wishes,
    Claudia

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  59. These look lovely for light matzoh balls, but there has always been a debate whether matzoh balls should float of sink. I'm from the lead sinker school. My mom started her recipe by browning a pound of matzoh meal in a cup of schmaltz. she also used chicken soup in the matzoh balls, 8 eggs and ground ginger and plenty of salt and pepper. Yum...but don't eat these unless you have low cholesterol :)

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  60. I love matzoh ball soup, but have never made it. I've always been afraid that my matzoh balls would be like lead. I may have to try it.
    Mimi

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