Flavorful chicken matzo ball soup…a labor of love and food for the soul.
There’s no “I” in soup. A gorgeous bowl of soup is the singing sum of its parts…flavorful broth, tender vegetables, and in today’s case…a banging matzo ball.
I didn’t grow up on matzo ball soup, but I sure made up for it over the past 20+ years. Living in NYC and frequenting diner after diner, I have by default become a connoisseur of this classic Jewish dish. Here is what I have deduced over time…
Tips for AMAZING Matzo Ball Soup
- You may think it’s all about the ball, but behind every amazing ball is a stand-up broth. Instead of cooking a whole chicken to make the stock, I go with necks and whole chicken breasts. When the meat is fall of the bone tender, remove the chicken (toss the necks, skin and bones), shred the breast meat and reserve it to add back into the soup later. I don’t skim the surface while the stock cooks, instead I strain everything after a couple hours, store the stock in the frig (that fat will harden on the surface) and skim the fat after it’s completely chilled. You might not get a crystal clear stock, but it’s a super easy method for stock-making.
- But if we’re talking ball…the texture is all-important and purely a matter of taste. In the soft vs. hard ball debate, I fall in the medium to slightly fluffy camp. I want a matzo ball that can hold up to the soup without disintegrating, but not so dense that it sinks to the bottom of the bowl. For optimal flavor use schmaltz (chicken fat – ask your butcher if you can’t find it on the shelf) and I opt for seltzer over baking powder to lighten. I cook the balls separately and add them to the soup just in time for serving which is great if you want to prep in advance. You can cook the matzo balls, remove them to a plate to cool, then package them up and stick them in the freezer. They can be rewarmed in the soup when it’s time to serve and of course this make-ahead option is super handy for holiday meal prep.
- SEASON GENEROUSLY WITH SALT. I’m sorry, but salt is paramount to a flavorful matzo ball soup and no amount of onion, garlic or carrots will make up for an under-seasoned soup. I add a little salt to the stock as it cooks but the real seasoning takes place when the soup comes together. Season, cook, taste, repeat.
And that’s it. This soup does take time, but actually pretty minimal hands-on effort. The result is a crazy tasty, homey soup perfect for Passover or any time of the year.
- 3 lbs bone-in ,skin-on, chicken pieces (I use whole chicken breasts and necks)
- 2 carrots, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
- 4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 handful fresh parsley
- 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 gallon (128 oz) cool water
- 1/4 cup schmaltz (chicken fat), softened
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup seltzer
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- a few turns of freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp garlic salt
- 1 1/2 tsp fresh dill, minced
- 1 cup matzo meal
- Chicken stock (recipe above)
- 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
- 3 cups petite or sliced carrots
- 1 Tbsp fresh dill, minced
- Kosher salt and pepper
- Reserved shredded chicken
- *Minced fresh dill for serving
Combine all of the ingredients in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a bare simmer and cook, partially covered, for an additional 2 hours.
Remove the chicken breasts and reserve. Strain the stock and discard the remaining solids.
Remove the meat from the chicken breasts, shred, and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Cover and chill the stock in the refrigerator overnight. Once the stock is well chilled, skim the fat from the surface and discard.
Whisk together the schmaltz and the eggs. Stir in the seltzer.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. Cover and chill, at least an hour or overnight.
When the mixture is well chilled, bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil and form the balls. Scoop out about 2 Tbsp for each ball roll them with wet hands. You will get about 18 matzo balls.
Reduce the water to a gentle simmer and use a slotted spoon to ease them into the water. Cover and cook for about 25 minutes or until the balls are just beginning to sink. Remove to a plate until ready to serve. (Make ahead: Cool the balls to room temp, package in ziplock bags and freeze. Rewarm the matzo balls in the soup to serve.)
While the matzo balls are cooking, make the soup. Bring the skimmed stock to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
Add the celery, carrots, dill, chicken and season generously with salt. Add pepper to taste. Cook until carrots are tender, about 30 mins or more. Adjust seasoning.
Add cooked matzo balls to the soup and cook until they are warmed through.
Serve with a sprinkle of minced fresh dill if desired.