This recipe has been over twenty years in the making. I didn’t come naturally to the matzoh ball, growing up in a small Midwestern town. (In fact, I’m pretty sure my husband was the first Jewish person my mother ever met.) This was one of those meals I wanted to learn when we got married, because I knew my husband loved matzoh ball soup, and Washington is not oversubscribed with delis. His mother told me the secret to a great matzoh ball was to put seltzer water in the mix to keep it light and full of air. In honesty, she wasn’t a great cook (whenever she announced that she was about to cook dinner, my father-in-law would leap out of his chair and say “You look tired, Sal. Let’s go out!” That was how they avoided her cooking for many years, in the kindest possible way.)
The seltzer water didn’t work for me. After many failed attempts over the years, I have come to believe that there are two secrets to a good matzoh ball, but I’d like to hear from others about this. The first thing I (finally) learned is that the egg whites need to be beaten until they are really stiff, for the matzoh balls to hold together. The second thing is to let the matzoh balls soak in the chicken broth for a while before serving them. For years I kept the matzoh balls separated from the soup until serving, as is often done in delis, but they have much more flavor if they’re allowed to marinate among the chicken, celery and carrots in the soup. I like to put in lots of carrots and celery to offset the weight of the matzoh ball, and chop the chicken roughly, so there are big, tempting chunks of it floating in the soup. All it needs as an accompaniment is a hunk of fresh rye bread and salted butter. If you’ve never made matzoh ball soup, I recommend you give it a try. Matzoh balls are like eggy dumplings, very satisfying and filling. The broth is rich and delicious for sipping if you have a spring cold, and you can always add lokshen (egg noodles) to the mix if you want to really do it right. And I don’t mean use egg noodles instead of matzoh balls, but in addition to matzoh balls. Yum. In the hearty tradition of Jewish cooking, more is more!
Prep time: one hour to prepare the soup, 40 minutes for the matzoh balls
For the soup:
- 12 cups of chicken stock (I happen to like Knorr chicken bouillon cubes, but that is just my personal preference. People have strong opinions about what constitutes the best chicken stock.)
- 6 chicken breasts, with the bone left in
- 2 cups carrots, chopped
- 2 cups celery, chopped
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- Place chicken stock, chicken breasts, carrots, celery and onions into a large stockpot and allow it to simmer for an hour.
- When the meat is cooked through, remove from the stock, allow to cool, and chop into chunks.
- Return chicken to the soup and set soup aside.
For the matzoh balls:
- 6 eggs, separated
- ¾ cup matzoh meal
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 3 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped
- 8 cups water 2 chicken bouillon cubes
- Beat egg whites in a mixer until they are very stiff.
- Add egg yolks and gently fold together.
- Sprinkle a quarter of the matzoh meal over the egg mixture at a time, until you have incorporated all of the matzoh meal. Do not overbeat.
- Add salt, pepper and dill, mix and refrigerate for ten minutes.
- Bring the water to a boil in a wide-mouthed pan and add bouillon cubes.
- Lower temperature to a simmer. Moisten your hands with water and form a 2-inch diameter ball of the matzoh mixture, and drop it into the simmering water. (This takes a little practice, and I usually switch the matzoh ball from hand to hand, turning it to create a more circular shape before plopping it gently into the water.)
- Continue to add other matzoh balls to the water, keeping the pot simmering.
- Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.
- The matzoh balls should be floating on top of the water and firm enough to be easily removed from the pot.
- Remove matzoh balls with a slotted spoon and, if serving immediately, place in the soup and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes.
- If serving later, matzoh balls can be placed in a roasting dish, covered and stored in the refrigerator until ready for use.
- If you have leftover matzoh balls, they are delicious when roasted with a chicken, where they soak up the pan drippings and form a kind of matzoh stuffing.