Matzo Ball Soup
It is the time of year for Passover festivities and whether you observe this holiday or not it's still interesting to partake in some of the food-related rituals. The one recipe that we make yearly is Matzo Ball Soup. This quintessential Passover recipe just takes a little time to make, but the steps and ingredients are quite simple. And the history is what makes the soup so interesting.
The Jewish religion calls for eating kosher foods during Passover. Matzo meal is important for kosher eating because it is a form of unleavened bread. The reason why many people don't eat leavened bread (bread with yeast) during Passover is to remember how Moses lead the Israelite people out of slavery in Egypt. As they quickly escaped by night, they had no time to let their bread rise, so they ate unleavened bread, which resulted in a cracker-like product. The small matzo balls in this soup are made from the ground-up version of these crackers. The matzo balls taste like a cracker while resembling a dumpling in the soup.
The soup itself is usually a chicken stock with several vegetables. Every time I make this recipe the vegetables added are different, so feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand, making sure to clean them properly (a very important part of kosher eating). A Kosher diet forbids the mixing of milk and meat, so chicken fat, vegetable oil or margarine may be used but no milk. Stock and seasonings are added to improve the otherwise bland taste of the matzo. Seltzer water gives the matzo balls a bit of fluffiness. And watch out because the little balls expand in size as they simmer away in the soup.
Though it's a Jewish tradition, you definitely don't have to be Jewish to appreciate and enjoy Matzo Ball Soup.
Matzo Ball Soup
1 qt. reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water, divided
2 whole, skinned chicken quarters (drumstick and thigh)
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup club soda
1 cup matzo meal
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup chipped kale or spinach
1/4 cup dill or parsley
Remove skin from chicken quarters using a sharp knife and slowly pulling away the skin. Put broth, chicken (still on bone), and 2 cups water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer 1 hour, skimming fat from broth as it cooks.
Whisk eggs in a medium bowl. Add oil, club soda, matzo meal, pepper, and 1/2 tsp. salt and mix well.
Chill, covered, at least 30 minutes, and up to 2 hours.
Remove chicken from broth, letting broth continue to simmer. Let chicken cool about 15 minutes, then tear meat into shreds and discard bones.
Shape matzo dough into 1-in. balls using wet hands; add each ball to broth as you go. Cover broth and matzo balls and simmer 25-30 minutes.
Add carrots, onion, celery, and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and cook 5 minutes. Stir in chicken and kale, heat until warm, 1 minute. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with parsley or dill.