Cooking from Scratch for Busy Moms: Matzo Ball Soup
Matzo ball soup! OMG!
This was one of my kids’ very favorite meals when they were growing up. I always made lots, and we treated it as a meal unto itself—though it would probably be healthier to serve it with a salad.
At our house, this was often a weekend treat, the eagerly awaited accompaniment to a rented movie. One of the neighbor kids, who sometimes joined my daughters for movie night, begged me to make it again forever after.
This is the recipe that used to be printed on the matzo meal box. I recently noticed that they have changed the recipe—but this one is tried and true, and I don’t trust the new one.
My first experience with matzo ball soup was at a restaurant in New York City, and it became my favorite light lunch after a long morning of shopping along West 57th Street. The way matzo ball soup was served at the little restaurant I frequented was like this: A very large (softball-size) matzo ball was set before you in a pool of clear golden chicken broth.
Because of this experience, I have always believed that matzo balls should be large. Not everyone makes them that way. Some people make the gefilte-fish size. Some people throw in some noodles. Some people even throw in some of the chicken meat. Well, all I can say is, “Oy!” Just do it my way, okay?
Matzo ball soup is not really a fast and easy recipe, but it’s not much trouble. There is a process involved, but it’s a simple process.
Cook the chicken in a crock pot, so the broth is ready when you get home from work. The matzo ball dough can also be stirred up ahead of time and refrigerated until you are ready to use it.
The recipe that follows makes quite a large pot of soup. It was about right for four people: me and three teenage daughters. But, even if you have a smaller family, Mom is likely to find the last matzo ball is gone, when she goes back for seconds. People inhale this stuff.
HOW TO MAKE MATZO BALL SOUP
First, make the chicken broth. Substituting canned chicken broth will give disappointing results.
Put a large whole chicken in a large pot or crock pot with water to cover. If on the stovetop, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer at low or medium low heat for a couple of hours. If in the crock pot, it can cook until you get around to taking it out.
Remove the chicken from the pot and reserve for other uses. Strain the chicken broth into a clean pot that can go on the stove top.
How to Make Matzo Balls
Buy plain matzo meal in the ethnic foods section of your grocery store. Be sure you are not getting a matzo ball soup mix.
8 tablespoons Crisco
2 cups matzo meal
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons broth or water
Melt Crisco in the microwave, but don’t let it get too hot. Mix melted Crisco with eggs. Mix salt with Crisco and eggs. Add matzo meal and mix well. Add broth or water and mix well again. Cover and refrigerate.
Refrigerating the dough makes it possible to easily form it into balls. Refrigerate for at least 20-30 minutes, so that the dough gets well chilled. Making the matzo-ball dough ahead—say, when you put the chicken on to cook—and allowing it to chill for an extended time up to several hours works well too. Just make sure it’s in a tightly sealed container, such as a Tupperware container or plastic bag, to avoid discoloration caused by contact with air. But if the dough gets discolored, don’t worry about it.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Shape the matzo-ball dough into perfectly round spheres by rolling balls of dough between your hands. These balls of dough should be about the size of baseballs.
Drop the balls into the boiling water. Cover and cook at medium to medium low heat for about 30 minutes. You may want to turn them over during cooking.
While the matzo balls are cooking in a pot of plain water, bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a separate pot. Add salt to the chicken broth until it tastes right to you.
After the matzo balls are done, transfer them to the pot of chicken broth, and simmer the matzo balls in the chicken broth for five minutes or so.
Serve each person one huge matzo ball surrounded by lovely clear golden chicken broth.
There is a temptation to skip the step of cooking the matzo balls in plain salted water and dump them directly into the chicken broth. This will produce unpleasant results. (I speak from experience here.)
There is a temptation to substitute cooking oil for Crisco. This will result in mushy matzo balls that won’t shape into balls, so avoid doing this. (I speak from experience.) For those who would rather avoid Crisco, good substitutes would be lard or Spectrum Shortening (available in health food stores), which is 100% palm oil.
You may see a matzo ball soup mix on your grocery shelf and be tempted to try this more convenient approach. (I have tried the mix, and it is disgusting.)
You will become famous among the neighbor children, and maybe at potluck dinners as well. That’s if your kids don’t eat it all before you can get it out the door.
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