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With Passover beginning this evening, we’re sharing a recipe for matzo ball soup.
Matzo (also written as matza, matzah or matzoh) is flat, unleavened bread that is traditionally eaten during Passover, the Jewish holiday celebrating the story of Exodus, or the Israelites’ liberation from Egyptian slavery. The story goes that in their haste to escape, the Israelites had no time to wait for bread dough to rise, or leaven. To commemorate, no leavened bread is eaten during the holiday, and in its place is matzo.
A part of Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine, matzo balls are dumplings made from matzo meal (matzo that is ground into fine crumbs), eggs, water and a fat, usually oil, margarine or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat). The dumplings are cooked in salted boiling water or broth until they plump and cook through; then they are served in soup with chicken and/or vegetables.
Based on their density, matzo balls can be referred to as “sinkers” or “floaters.” To achieve sinkers, omit baking soda or seltzer from the recipe. For super-airy floaters, try folding in whipped egg whites in addition to baking soda and seltzer.
This recipe, from Andrew Zimmern as seen on foodandwine.com, achieves the perfectly balanced ball, “light enough to float, dense enough to be a good sinker.”
Passover Matzoh-Ball Soup
For the soup:
2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium broth
One 3-pound chicken
For the matzoh balls:
1 1/4 cups matzoh meal
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 large eggs, 3 separated
1/4 cup melted chicken fat (schmaltz) or vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, for forming the matzoh balls
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 small onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 pound rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 large dill sprigs
4 large parsley sprigs
Freshly ground pepper
Make the chicken soup: In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a simmer. Add the chicken and return the stock just to a simmer. Cover the chicken with a small plate to keep it submerged and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to maintain a very low simmer; simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the chicken and let cool slightly, then shred the meat; discard the skin and bones. Strain the soup into a heatproof bowl. Skim off the fat and return the soup to the pot.
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Meanwhile, make the matzoh balls: In a large bowl, combine the matzoh meal, salt, garlic, baking powder and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk the 2 whole eggs with the 3 yolks, schmaltz and onion. In a separate bowl, beat the 3 egg whites with an electric hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Stir the schmaltz mixture into the dry ingredients, then stir in one-third of the beaten egg whites until incorporated. Gently fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the batter and refrigerate for about 20 minutes or overnight, until firm.
Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. In a small bowl, combine the vegetable oil with 1 tablespoon of water. Scoop 1-tablespoon-size mounds of the matzoh batter onto the baking sheet. Using the oil-and-water mixture to keep your hands moist, roll each scoop of batter into a ball, handling them as gently as possible.
Return the chicken soup to a simmer. Add the carrot, celery, onion, rutabaga, dill and parsley and season with a big pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the matzoh balls. Cover and cook over moderate heat, turning the matzoh balls a few times, until they are plump and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Stir the shredded chicken into the soup and cook just until the meat is warmed through, about 2 minutes. Remove the herb sprigs. Season the soup with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
**Make ahead: The soup can be rolled out and refrigerated overnight. Cover the matzoh balls and shredded chicken with plastic wrap before refrigerating.