Thursday, March 3, 2011

Homemade Matzo Ball Chicken Soup

About a month ago, the husband unit fell ill after months of being lucky enough to stave off all the wonderful infections and influenzas that come with the territory when one lives in a college town. Proximity to sleep deprived students, financial stress, lack of sleep because of work and the complexities of life, and touching dirty money and food plates in his place of work all combined for the perfect storm. After coming home from work with a fever, poor husband unit spent the night alternately sweating and freezing, so when I woke up in the morning, looking compassionately at the poor suffering soul next to me, I knew it was time for the mother of all flu busters.


The following recipe is for Matzo Ball Soup how I make it (there are a million recipes out there, and this is my favorite because I've made it my own), but you might know it by its other name: Jewish penicillin. It's no joke that this soup has the power to heal, and after four hours of prep, I like to believe that the love and care put into a big pot of chicken soup is enough to fill the sickened with a sense of hope. I might be waxing a little romantic here, but isn't that what chicken soup is for? Hope?

Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls

For stock and schmaltz:
1 whole chicken, gizzards removed and skin intact
1 1/2 onions, divided
2 stalks celery, chopped
Handful of celery leaves
8-10 baby carrots
2 turnips, halved
8 cloves garlic, smashed but unpeeled
2 bay leaves
Handful of fresh dill
Handful of fresh parsley
Black pepper to taste
Water to cover

For soup:
8 cups stock
3 stalks celery, chopped
7-8 baby carrots, sliced
3 tbsp. dill, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

For matzo balls:
1/2 cup matzo
2 tbsp. schmaltz (substitute vegetable oil if not using)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. seltzer water

1. To make schmaltz, remove half of the chicken skin from the whole chicken and place in a skillet over medium heat with 1/2 chopped onion. The chicken fat will melt and produce a ton of chicken oil, but this is liquid gold in the making: DO NOT SKIM. Cook until browned and remove from heat. Strain over a fine mesh colander and reserve golden deliciousness. Refrigerate until ready to make matzo balls.

2. Place whole chicken in a large soup pot with the rest of the stock ingredients and completely cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and lower to simmer. Cook, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from heat and let cool.

3. Once stock is cool enough, strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large container. Shred and reserve chicken meat for another use, like enchiladas, pasta salad, or even BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches. Set stock aside until ready to make soup.

4. To make matzo balls, combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and work ingredients together with hands until uniform. Refrigerate for one hour (you can [and should at some point] make this ahead of time in order for the ingredients to produce very fluffy balls [hehe]).

5. Using a tbsp. measuring unit, scoop tablespoons of matzo dough and shape into balls. Drop each ball into a large saucepan filled with boiling water. Reduce heat to medium once all balls are in, and cook, covered, for about 30-40 minutes.

6. While matzo balls are cooking, make the soup. Combine 8 cups chicken stock with the rest of the soup ingredients except for dill. Warm, turn off heat, and add dill. Serve two to three matzo balls with warmed soup poured over.

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