My nana used to exclaim that her knaidlach (matzo balls) were so light and fluffy that she had to keep the lid on her pot to keep them from floating away. Actually nana, no disrespect meant – they were indeed as light as air – but that’s how they are meant to be cooked – with the pot covered.
My Passover matzo ball soup of choice is a combination of quick tips acquired over years of waiting for broth to evolve its flavor, and an outstanding recipe from Epicurious for Miniature Leek and Chive Matzo Balls.
First – the soup. I simmer a whole Bell & Evans chicken breast in about 3 quarts of water with a couple of whole carrots, an unpeeled onion, a couple of celery ribs, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf and about 9 tbsp of Better than Bouillion Chicken Base. That latter ingredient is light years beyond any powdered or cubed chicken bouillion, or those weakly flavored aseptic boxes of chicken broth. Also a few sprigs of parsley and dill tied with kitchen twine for easy retrieval.
After about an hour, I let things cool down, strain the broth twice to assure clarity, correct seasoning if any S&P are needed, and then slice or dice the cooked carrots and celery to add back in. Let it cool and refrigerate. When the chicken is cool enough to handle (despite my asbestos fingertips), I shred it and set it aside in another container in the fridge. Soup components done, and now to the matzo balls.
This recipe from Epicurious is easy but takes time, so plan ahead and you will wow your guests not only at how adorable a few of these look in each bowl of soup, but also at the unexpected nuances of flavor from the leeks and other ‘secret’ ingredients:
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted pareve margarine
1/2 cup packed finely chopped leek (white and pale green parts only)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh scallions or chives
2 tablespoons ginger ale
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup unsalted matzo meal (pulverize your matzo in a blender to make your own)
Melt margarine in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add leek; sauté 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 cup chives.
Beat eggs, ginger ale, salt, pepper and ginger to blend in bowl. Mix in matzo meal and leek mixture. Cover and chill until firm, at least 2 hours.
Line large baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using moistened palms, roll rounded teaspoons of matzo mixture into balls, about 3/4″ in diameter – no bigger…they will puff up. Place on prepared baking sheet. Chill 30 minutes.
Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Drop in matzo balls; cover pot and reduce to medium simmer. Cook matzo balls until tender and evenly colored throughout, about 40 minutes. They will have all floated to the top (in an attempt to escape, nana). Using slotted spoon, transfer matzo balls to bowl. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.)
Night of serving, bring it all together. Reheat the broth with the vegetables, add in the shredded chicken, and just a few moments before serving, add in the matzo balls. Any sooner and they will expand too large by absorption of the broth. Trust me – a cousin brought his matzo ball soup several years ago, made the mistake of having them reheat together too long, and we had wet matzo balls with virtually no broth.