Bubbe's Matzo Ball Soup: For Those of Us Who Won't Be Eating Easter Ham
Making matzo ball soup can be a very straightforward proposition. You can even buy matzo balls premade or buy a mix for it, although there's little more than matzo meal in it. To my mind, making them is more about the process of doing it than the ingredients that go in it.
Here's Bubbe's recipe:
2 tablespoons oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup matzo
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons soup stock or water
In a bowl, beat the eggs and then add the oil, Manischewitz Matzo Meal and salt. Blend together. Add broth or water and mix until uniform. Cover and chill in refrigerator for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, bring 6 cups (1-1/2 quarts) salted water to a brisk boil.
If this looks familiar, that's because it's from the back of the Manischewitz Matzo Meal box. I admit, I was a tiny bit disappointed there was no big family secret. But I sallied forth and mixed the ingredients together using tap water as Bubbe always did. The key is to treat the mixture gently and not stir the heck out of it. Then put the mixture in the fridge to give some body to it. Don't skimp on the time. Twenty or 30 minutes is ideal. Then, once you take them out, carefully shape them. Be sure your hands are wet so the mixture doesn't stick to your hands.
Making the balls approximately 1 inch in diameter will allow them to cook evenly and look good in the soup. Reduce heat on the pot of salted water you have on the stove and drop matzo balls into the boiling water. Cover tightly and simmer until thoroughly cooked, about 30-40 minutes. Remove matzo balls from water.
As for the broth, well, no one seemed quite sure how Bubbe did it. So, I made my secret "cheater" broth. Get a chicken from the store that has already been seasoned and roasted. The more crusty and herby the skin, the better. Put a large pot of water (about 20 cups) on the stove at medium high heat.
Add carrots, celery and onions. No need to peel the carrots and you can chop all of the ingredients very coarsely. They're all just coming out any way. Then add all of the chicken not fit (or at least not desirable) to eat -- the bones, skin, fat, whatever. It's all coming out later anyway too. (Reserve the meat.)
Then just let it brew. From 2-5 hours is your best bet. Once it's done, strain out the gunk and you're ready to add the good stuff, finely chopped celery, carrots, and onions, as well as the meat from the chicken that you reserved while making the stock.
Then, when you're a few minutes from being ready to eat, add the matzo balls for about five minutes to get them warmed up inside. And, voila!, Bubbe's matzo ball soup. And, if I do say so myself, it's pretty darn good every time I make it, which is not just at Passover. In fact, whenever the weather turns cold, there are always requests in my house for matzo ball soup, and I am almost always happy to oblige!