Matzo ball soup is one of my favorite cold weather/rainy day/not feeling well comfort foods. I use the term “matzo ball soup” loosely because my version is not terribly authentic.
Coming from a family of Catholic Italians, I wasn’t even introduced to Matzo until I hit college. I don’t have any childhood memories of grandma standing over a bubbling pot making matzo balls (in our family the balls were made of meat). I don’t have a secret family recipe that must be followed to the letter.
The fact that I lack “history” with this soup has perhaps worked in my favor. Its given me complete freedom to make my soup exactly as I please. In my case, that means starting with a generous mix of carrots, celery and onions. Pouring in my homemade chicken stock, adding chunks of cooked chicken and some chopped kale. Letting the broth reduce until it takes on a velvety, unctuous texture. So, essentially, I make chicken soup but replace the noodles with matzo balls. And its delicious.
Today I happened to have some schmaltz (chicken fat), leftover from the ongoing roast chicken recipe development project I’ve been working on. I’ve read that the most authentic and delicious way to make matzo balls is to use chicken fat (schmaltz) instead of oil. So, I tried it. I also added some minced onion, minced celery leaves and minced parsley to the mixture. Then I added in my matzo meal, which is a whole wheat matzo that I found at Whole Foods and we really like. Not only is it healthier but its got a really nice hearty flavor and texture thats more substantial that traditional matzo meal.
The resulting soup was absolutely excellent. It may not be authentic but it was a tasty. Between the rainy weather and the cold bug thats currently paying our family a visit (again), this was the perfect meal to perk everyone up — and all those veggies and chicken made it a hearty and nutrient-packed way to nurse everyone back to health.
Chicken Soup with Schmaltzy Matzo Balls
1 Tablespoon celery leaves, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
2 Tablespoons onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
4 eggs, beaten
2 Tablespoons water
6 Tablespoons chicken fat
1 cup Matzo meal, preferably whole wheat
2 Tablespoons olive oil (or chicken fat)
1/2 cup carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 cup onion, diced
4 cups chicken stock
8 cups water
1/2 cup cooked chicken, diced
1/4 cup chopped frozen kale
Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Combine first six ingredients in a small bowl. Add chicken fat and matzo meal and stir until evenly combined. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour (or as long as overnight, the longer the better).
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery and onion and sautee until soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add stock, water diced chicken and kale and bring to a boil.
Moisten hands slightly with water and roll matzo mixture into golf ball-sized balls. Drop each matzo ball into boiling soup. Once all matzo balls are added to pot, cover and continue to boil over medium high heat until matzo balls are puffed and cooked all the way through, about 30 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste before serving.