A staple of kosher cuisine, a light matzo ball soup has satisfied Jewish families for millennia both for Passover and throughout the year.
Often called “Jewish penicillin” for its appeal as a homemade restorative, this simple chicken soup comes from the Ashkenazi Jews of central and eastern Europe. At its center are the plain dumplings made from matzah meal, an unleavened flatbread flour allowed under religious law. Naturally, hundreds of individual variations exist from kitchen to family kitchen.
The matzo balls are lightened slightly using carbonated soda water, and are boiled until done as either “floaters” or “sinkers.” Many recipes flavor the matzo balls with schmaltz, or rendered chicken fat, for its rich and distinctive flavor although modern cooks often use margarine or vegetable shortening. This recipe suffices with the yolks from the included eggs (a compromise allowed under Sephardic tradition) providing the fat while the whites provide some slight leavening.
A quality stock is necessary for a simple dish with few components such as this, and homemade stock is a must. Various recipes call for all sorts of chicken-soup additions such as onions, celery and even egg noodles but this version instead allows the dumplings to remain at the forefront with just a few sliced carrots and a sprinkling of dill.
For many, this soup can be rather bland compared to spicier soups of Latino, Caribbean and Asian influence. However, if not constrained by dietary laws any number of herbs or spices can be added to the matzo balls or the stock itself for a tradition-bending fusion dish. Try chopped jalapeño peppers with cilantro, or a touch of cayenne and soy sauce with a dash of nam pla.
If a heartier, more filling soup is desired, add shredded cooked chicken to the bowls before serving.
Matzo Ball Soup
1 c matzo meal
4 c chicken stock
¼ c club soda
1 Combine the matzo meal, eggs, soda, salt, pepper and oil to make a loose dough. Chill for at least 30 min.
2 Bring the stock to a low simmer over medium heat. Slice the carrots on a bias and add with a pinch of dill and simmer, covered, while the matzo balls cook.
3 With wet hands, form the matzo dough into about 2″ balls and drop into boiling water. Boil, uncovered, about 30 min or until firm.
4 Remove the matzo balls directly to serving bowls. Top with the prepared carrots and stock.