Friday, January 18, 2013

NOT My Grandma Esther's Matzoh Ball Soup

 My grandma Esther was a real Bubbe , a full blown Jewish grandmother when it came to her cooking. She was a very difficult person to deal with and didn't love my father the way he deserved to be loved, but she loved us all with her food.  My recipes on this blog for latkes and for pink apple sauce are hers. At Passover there was always the gefilte fish that I hated then (and still hate), chopped liver (a recipe I'd love to have now), and always, matzoh ball soup.

The gefilte was doubtlessly from a jar by the time I was refusing it in the late 60s, but I am sure that the matzoh balls were from scratch. But when several years ago my older daughter asked me to try making them (she'd had them at a NY deli, I think), I was leery. Making matzoh balls is considered high art among Jewish cooks and I found them intimidating.

But a basic matzoh ball mix, to which you add egg and oil,  proved easy to use--and after all, the mix part is basically crumbled matzoh and seasonings. And my matzoh balls, dropped into the boiling water, floated to the surface just as they should and cooked up light and fluffy. Picture perfect. SC loved them and often asks for them, especially when she's not feeling well.

When I make this in a hurry I resort to making a simple broth from the very good soup base I buy and always have on hand in the fridge, gussied up with some chopped vegetables. If I've planned this in advance, I've taken a chicken carcass left over from a weekend dinner and simmered it overnight in my slow cooker. This week, with SC under the weather with a nasty cold, I dumped some chicken bones in my pot, added soup base and vegetables and let it simmer for just a few hours.

No matter how you do it, it's delicious and great comfort food. And your Bubbe doesn't have to know about a shortcut or two, does she?

Chicken Soup With Matzoh Balls

The Soup(Shortcut Version)

Place in a crock pot/slow cooker
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 2 tablespoons chicken soup base (if you use bouillon, follow package directions for 2 quarts)
  • bones from leftover chicken(cut off the meat and add it to the soup at the end)
  • 1 cup chopped onions (frozen or dehydrated are fine)
  • 1 big handful of dried parsley
  • 1 cup chopped carrots  (I just used some baby carrots on hand.Just cut into rounds)
Mix everything well and turn the cooker to HIGH. Cook for 2-3 hours.
Strain the soup well. I have a big and a small strainer and I used them both. You could use cheesecloth to get an even finer straining.
Replace the broth in the pot. Throw away the vegetables. If there is any meat left on the bones, dice it and add it back to the soup.

Add
  • 1 cup chopped onions (frozen or dehydrated are fine)1 big handful of dried parsley
  • 1 cup chopped carrots  (dice them neatly this time as you'll be eating them)
  • pepper to taste (if you insist on salt, fine, but this seldom needs it)
  • chopped garlic (this is optional, but we are garlic eaters....)
Turn the pot to LOW and simmer for another hour or so. While this is simmering, make the matzoh balls.

Full Version: The night before you want to make this, put the entire carcass of a cooked roasted chicken into your slow cooker. Add the vegetables and the water. Cook overnight (8-12 hours). Strain as above.
Taste, and if necessary add some soup base/bouillon. Continue with the rest of the cooking.

The Matzoh Balls

Follow the recipe on the box. I don't need a ton of matzoh balls, so I generally divide each packet of the mix in half and use half at a time.

All you need to do is combine the mix with eggs and oil and stir it until blended. Then the mix goes in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

While the mix is chilling, put a large pot of water on the stove and heat it until it is boiling.

(Note that they spell it "Matzo". When you're translating from another alphabet there tend to be spelling variations.....)





Alton Brown always talks about multitasking tools. My mini scoop--usually called a cookie dough scoop I think--does cookies, meatballs and with this, matzoh balls.

I rinse it in cold water before I use it, but this dough doesn't really stick, and scoop up balls of dough.  The recipe claims you'll get 9-12 from a packet of mix, I find that 1/2 a packet makes 4-5 balls.



They are tiny, but that's you need to make them small.They are going to get a whole lot bigger when you cook them!

The matzoh balls on the left look as they do right after you scoop them. I've wet my hands and smoothed the ones on the right into rounder, tighter shape.

Time to drop them into the boiling water!


It's nervous work, dropping them in gently and watching them sink to the bottom. But when they pop back up to the top as they have here, you know that you've done them correctly!

Put the lid on your pot and cook them at a gentle boil for 20 minutes.





 Ready to come out of the pot, they are at least twice as big as they were and have held together beautifully. If they break up a bit, you can still use them, they just won't be as pretty to look at.

I am lifting them out with a Chinese style strainer I bought in an Asian supermarket. We run an eclectic kitchen.....




I place one matzoh ball into the soup bowl, ladle the soup around it, then add some cut up chicken
and it is ready to eat. See how big that matzoh ball is--that's a standard sized soup/cereal bowl!

If you have any leftover matzoh balls, store them in the fridge in the soup. They reheat very nicely.

Esse, bubbeleh--EAT!

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