My husband got very excited when I told him I was making matzo ball soup. It’s one of our favorites, and the temperature has dropped a few degrees this week, so we can actually enjoy it.
The headliners of matzo ball soup are the matzo balls, without them, you just have chicken soup. They remind me that, with a little ingenuity, you can make the most delicious things from the humblest ingredients. Traditional matzo balls are made with not much more than cracker meal and eggs. But in the hands of a skilled cook they turn into tasty buoyant little dumplings.
I’m foregoing the prepackaged mixes and making mine from scratch with matzo crackers.
Matzo is a simple flat cracker made from flour and water. It’s basically an unleavened bread traditionally eaten during Passover to commemorate the ancient Jews’ hasty exodus from Egypt. It’s easily ground up in a food processor and it yields better, fresher results than packaged mixes. Like graham cracker crumbs made fresh from the crackers…why on earth pay somebody else to smash up crackers for you?
Some beaten egg, a tiny bit of oil, and a little broth or water makes these basic dumplings. Lots of fresh dill makes them more colorful and interesting.
In the venerable old delis here in Los Angeles they make their matzo balls huge. They give you one ginormous ball that fills your entire bowl, and it can be a little overwhelming. You have to attack it with a knife and fork. I like mine more on the delicate side, both in size and in texture.
I use the tiniest size scoop I can find so I can make small, uniform balls. You can make them any size you want, but I think the smaller ones cook more evenly and come out better.
And don’t forget that matzo balls expand as they simmer, so you’ll always end up with bigger dumplings after they’re cooked.
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup finely ground matzo
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp seltzer water (or broth)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 5 stalks celery, sliced (I use the inner stalks and chop the leaves, too)
- 8 cups chicken stock
- approx. 3 cups cooked chicken meat (I used the breast meat from a rotisserie chicken)
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and fresh pepper to taste
- large handful fresh parsley, chopped
- First make the matzo balls. Beat the eggs and add in the oil.
- Mix in the matzoh and salt.
- Add the water and dill and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
- Using a scoop or small spoon, make rounded balls out of the dough and set on a tray. I used a 1 1/4 inch scoop and got 21 balls.
- Bring lots of salted water to a boil and drop the matzoh balls in. Cover, lower the heat slightly, and let them simmer for about 15 minutes. Gently remove them to a plate.
- To make the soup, melt the butter in a soup pot and saute the onion and carrot for about 10 minutes.
- Add the celery and cook for another few minutes.
- Add in the stock, chicken meat, bay leaves and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for about 15 minutes. Don't cook so long that the carrots become soft and mushy.
- Just before serving, put the matzo balls into the soup and heat them through.
- Finish with a large handful of chopped fresh parsley and garnish with some dill leaves.
Note: If we’re not going to eat all the soup at one time, I only add the amount of matzo balls needed for that serving. The rest can be stored separately and added to the soup the next day. This just prevents them from getting soggy.
This is warm, hearty, restorative, resonant with historical significance, and the essence of home and family. It can also beat the heck out of a cold or flu. It’s one of the world’s great soups.