I remember when I was growing up, my family would go over to my great aunt’s house for holiday dinners. And for occasional weekend dinners. And random Friday night gatherings. They threw a lot of events, because at that age I suppose you don’t have much else to do.
Anyways, my grandmother lived right up the hill from my great aunt – literally right up the hill. Their houses were pretty much back to back, and you walk down a 50 foot hill and you’re at the house. So she would bring some food as well. And she made matzo ball soup, with the largest matzo balls I have ever seen. Like, the size of softballs.
And they’d serve them in these average sized bowls, so the balls would engulf the bowl, and there’d be a little bit of soup in it, and a little piece of carrot or celery that wondered why they even bothered to put it in the bowl.
Were they good? Hell if I remember! They were giant balls, what else did you need to know?
Flash forward about 20 years. My friends were having a soup night, and I decided that it was time to take a shot at making my own version of matzo ball soup.. So I did the slightest bit of research, and came to the realization…
…her matzo balls probably sucked.
Let’s step back for a minute, for those of you that aren’t familiar with this goodness. Matzo ball soup is essentially Jewish chicken and dumplings. The balls are pretty close to the same as dumplings, except you use matzo meal instead of flour. And matzo meal is made from ground-up matzos, which are flavorless dry crackers. That doesn’t sound terribly appealing, but neither does flour, and you’re going to make some very good things out of this.
Now, there are two types of matzo balls: floaters and sinkers. Floaters are pillowy, soft, tender balls that will mostly sit on top of the broth and absorb all the flavors of the soup.
Sinkers are for people that have no taste buds, like horrible things, and probably root for Ohio State…I mean, they are flavorless blobs that sink to the bottom of the bowl.
Most likely, my grandmother’s matzo balls were sinkers. I probably learned more about my family with this piece of information than I would get from spending 20 hours on Ancestry.com.
So, because we here on this blog like things that taste good, we’re going to work on making some floaters. Making the batter is pretty easy. You just mix some matzo meal, eggs, seltzer water (the key ingredient to make them floaters), melted butter (if you have some spare schmaltz laying around, this would be the time to use it), salt, and pepper. Be generous with the salt, matzo meal is seriously bland.
Once you’ve got it mixed together (make sure there aren’t any pockets of dry matzo meal just hanging out together), put it in the refrigerator to rest for about 30 minutes or so. This is essential, all the ingredients need to have time to get to know each other, talk about the latest episode of Ted Lasso, debate the merits of Nate making decisions over Coach Beard, stuff like that.
While that’s resting, go get your biggest pot and fill it up with a boatload of chicken broth, and start bringing that to a boil. Definitely splurge for the organic stuff if you can, it does make for a better soup (though if you have some homemade broth, you are not going to find a better purpose for it).
Once your batter is rested and can give you the plusses and minuses of using a 4-4-2 vs. 4-2-3-1 formation, pull it out of the fridge and bring it next to your kitchen sink, along with a plate to place your matzo balls onto. Why near the sink? Because the ball mixture is super sticky, and you’re going to need to wet your hands every few balls so it doesn’t stick to your hands.
You want to make these relatively small, no bigger than a golf ball. They’re going to puff up when they cook, so don’t make them too big. So just grab a little piece, roll it around in your moist hands, say ohhh, I can’t wait to put you in my mouth, acknowledge that that was just weird, and then put the ball on the plate.
By the time you’ve got your balls made, your broth should be at a boil. Drop those balls in one at a time, maybe make a high-pitched scream after each one, saying NOOOO I STILL HAVE SO MUCH TO LIVE FOR!!! Once they’re in, lower the temperature to a simmer. I like keeping the lid on so the top-facing side stays moist – if you do that, make sure you get the temperature pretty low, because it can come to a boil pretty easily.
Now, some people will argue with you and say that the balls should be cooked in water and not broth, because you want to taste the balls separately from the broth. Which, I say, of course you should do that! What hasn’t ever tasted better when cooked in water than in broth? And I get to dirty up another pot? Where do I sign up for this dipshittery?!?!
While the balls are cooking, get yourself one of those rotisserie chickens and shred it up into little bits. I don’t know if it’s the brine/spices they cook them in, or the texture of it, but it really adds something to the dish.
After the balls are done cooking (which you’ve flipped once during their 30 minute bath), get those balls out of there and back onto that plate.
Remember how I said they were going to plump up? Check these fat fuckers out! If I knew how to do cool photoshop stuff I’d be making a How It Started/How It’s Going meme for this!
From here, you’ve got choices. Do you want to add carrots, celery, onions, Ivermectin to your broth? This would be the time to cut some up and get them cooking in the broth. Cut them in small enough pieces that they’ll cook in 10-15 minutes or so – you’ve put enough effort into the soup, you don’t want to wait too much longer to eat it, and no one gives a fuck about the vegetables, so get it done quick. Then drop the shredded chicken in there and cook it just long enough to heat it through and get it to release those sweet spices.
All set now? Load up a bowl with some soup and chicken, drop a few balls in there, and kick back and enjoy. You’ve got good taste, and those sinker lovers can go suck it.
Matzo Ball Soup
Serves 4-6 bowls
1 cup matzo meal
4 large eggs
1/4 cup melted butter or oil
1/4 cup seltzer water
1 teaspoon salt
Several grinds of black pepper
3-4 quarts of organic chicken broth
1 grocery store rotisserie chicken, skinned and shredded
In a large bowl, beat the eggs until the yolks and whites are combined.
Mix in the matzo meal, melted butter, seltzer water, salt, and pepper. Stir until there are no pockets of dry matzo meal.
Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes.
In a large stockpot, add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
After 30 minutes, remove the bowl from the refrigerator, and place by a sink. Place a large plate by the bowl.
Wet your hands under cold water, grab a golf ball sized piece of the mixture or smaller, and roll it into a ball shape. Place the ball onto the plate, and repeat.
When the broth reaches a boil, add the matzo balls to the pot one at a time.
Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook for 15 minutes. Check after a couple minutes to make sure the broth does not boil over.
After 15 minutes, remove the lid, flip the matzo balls, and cook for another 15 minutes.
Remove the balls with a slotted spoon and place on a plate.
Return the broth to a simmer. If desired, add vegetables and cook until tender.
Add shredded chicken to the simmering broth. Simmer until chicken is warmed through.
Return matzo balls back to the pot. Simmer for a minute to reheat the matzo balls.