Growing up in New York City, I can remember going to my bubbe’s house and noshing on a bowl of her matzo ball soup. It was perfect. Since then I searched all over for something like it, but I wasn’t able to find anything even comparable. Then, about 20 years ago, I attended a Passover seder at an old family friend’s house, when I tasted her matzo ball soup. There it was in the bowl in front of me, the perfect balance for a matzoh ball: light enough to float, dense enough to be a good “sinker.” After begging her for the recipe, she finally gave it to me. Now, it’s of course a Passover staple at my house; but I love to make it year-round, especially in these cold winter months. When I make it as a main course, I serve the chicken in sixths with the skin and bone. I will often add kasha (toasted buckwheat groats) or noodles and leave the vegetables in bigger pieces.
. 2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium broth
. One 3-pound chicken
. 1 1/4 cups matzoh meal
. 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
. 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
. 5 large eggs, 3 separated
. 1/4 cup melted chicken fat (schmaltz) or vegetable oil
. 1/4 cup minced onion
. 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, for forming the matzoh balls
. 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
. 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
. 1 small onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
. 1/4 pound rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
. 4 large dill sprigs
. 4 large parsley sprigs
. Kosher salt
. Freshly ground pepper
1. Make the chicken soup in a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a simmer. Add the chicken and return the stock just to a simmer. Cover the chicken with a small plate to keep it submerged and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to maintain a very low simmer; simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the chicken and let cool slightly, then shred the meat; discard the skin and bones. Strain the soup into a heatproof bowl. Skim off the fat and return the soup to the pot.
2. Meanwhile, make the matzoh balls in a large bowl, combine the matzoh meal, salt, garlic, baking powder and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk the 2 whole eggs with the 3 yolks, schmaltz and onion. In a separate bowl, beat the 3 egg whites with an electric hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Stir the schmaltz mixture into the dry ingredients, then stir in one-third of the beaten egg whites until incorporated. Gently fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the batter and refrigerate for about 20 minutes or overnight, until firm.
3. Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. In a small bowl, combine the vegetable oil with 1 tablespoon of water. Scoop 1-tablespoon-size mounds of the matzoh batter onto the baking sheet. Using the oil-and-water mixture to keep your hands moist, roll each scoop of batter into a ball, handling them as gently as possible.
4. Return the chicken soup to a simmer. Add the carrot, celery, onion, rutabaga, dill and parsley and season with a big pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the matzoh balls. Cover and cook over moderate heat, turning the matzoh balls a few times, until they are plump and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Stir the shredded chicken into the soup and cook just until the meat is warmed through, about 2 minutes. Remove the herb sprigs. Season the soup with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Andrew Zimmern is a James Beard Award-winning TV personality, chef, food writer, teacher and is widely regarded as one of the most versatile and knowledgeable personalities in the food world. As the creator, host and co-executive producer of Travel Channel’s hit series, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World, and his new series, Bizarre Foods America, he travels the globe, exploring food in its own terroir. From world class restaurants to street carts and jungle markets, it’s all about discovering and sharing the authentic experience as a way to interpret the way we live our lives so we can make better choices for our future.
He resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife Rishia, son Noah and several un-eaten pets. Zimmern’s new book Andrew Zimmern’s Field Guide to Weird, Wild, & Wonderful Foods is available in bookstores now or on Amazon.com. A perfect Hanukkah gift for the young food-and-adventure lover in your life.
(Photo of Andrew Zimmern: Steve Henke)
(Photo of matzo ball soup: Stephanie Meyer)