matzah ball soup

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For a few days I have been thinking about making matzah ball soup so I can achieve fully the inner Jewish grandma status I’ve always wanted to be. Sure, I won’t actually get there. But the soup has been made for the very first time. It can certainly be improved, but it was a good first try and lovely for a rainy, stormy day.

I adapted this Bon Appetit recipe, which was okay, but I am going to look at other methods.

I also had to buy a new, giant stock pot.

for the chicken stock (this includes the adaptations I made)

2 3-lb. chickens, cut into 8 pieces
2 large yellow onions, unpeeled, quartered
6 celery stalks, cut into 1″ pieces
4 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1” pieces
2 large shallots, quartered
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon black peppercorns

Bring all ingredients and 12 cups cold water to a boil in a very large (at least 12-qt.) stockpot. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chicken breasts are cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Transfer breasts to a plate (remaining chicken parts are strictly for stock). Let breasts cool slightly, then remove meat and return bones to stock. Shred meat. Let cool, tightly wrap, and chill.

Continue to simmer stock, skimming surface occasionally, until reduced by one-third, about 2 hours. Strain chicken stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large saucepan (or airtight container, if not using right away); discard solids. You should have about 8 cups.

matzah mixture

3 large eggs, beaten to blend
¾ cup matzah meal
¼ cup schmaltz (chicken fat), melted
3 tablespoons club soda (I didn’t use this because I forgot to buy it – it probably would have helped… but oh well. Next time)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Mix eggs, matzah meal, schmaltz, club soda, and salt in a medium bowl (mixture will resemble wet sand; it will firm up as it rests). Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

assemble and serve

1 small carrot, peeled, sliced ¼” thick on a diagonal
Kosher salt, to taste – don’t go too crazy with it
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill (I hate dill so I did not use this)
Coarsely ground fresh black pepper

Bring chicken stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Add carrots; season with salt. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender, 5–7 minutes. Remove from heat, add reserved breast meat, and cover. Set soup aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Scoop out 2-tablespoonful portions matzah ball mixture and, using wet hands, gently roll into balls.

Add matzah balls to water and reduce heat so water is at a gentle simmer (too much bouncing around will break them up). Cover pot and cook matzah balls until cooked through and starting to sink, 20–25 minutes.

Chicken Soup

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Something like hopping on a plane and almost immediately succumbing to excruciating stomach cramps and then classic and miserable flu symptoms is about the least fun I can think of. This unfortunate fate happened to Mr Firewall, and I have been trying everything in my amateur first-aid repertoire to help him get well and make him comfortable.

One bit was my first attempt to make standard chicken soup. I am not sure how I got to this stage in my life without ever having made basic chicken soup – it just never seemed like a priority. Not to add that it’s not really my favorite soup, and I rarely have chicken on hand. I didn’t even have a whole chicken – only boneless chicken breast, which is far from ideal for this kind of thing. This time, though, it seemed that when Mr Firewall felt like eating again, chicken soup would be just the right thing.

How did I do it?

Quickly sear both sides of two large chicken breasts in about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot. Remove chicken and set aside. Now you can either chop it into a few chunks to cook in the soup or cook thoroughly in another pot of boiling water to make it easy to shred.

I chopped up one red onion, one large shallot, one (cleaned) leek, two stalks of celery and two carrots and sauteed these in the pan in which I seared the chicken. Saute for about five minutes, stirring a couple of times during the process. At the very end, throw in about four thinly sliced cloves of garlic.

Add two cups of boiling water. In a separate glass, mix a half cup to one cup of boiling water with two chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes and about 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper – mix that into the sauteed veg mixture and let all simmer. Add the chicken now as well. Simmer for about 10 minutes. (If you are or have been cooking and shredding the chicken separately you can wait to add that until the last few minutes.)

After simmering, I threw the chicken in as well as about a quarter of a head of cabbage chopped into thin pieces as well as a handful of baby spinach, also roughly chopped. I also threw in two more cloves of thinly sliced garlic – and voilà – it turned out pretty well.

And everyone is feeling much better, thanks.