Memories of Matzo Balls -
Chicken Soup for the Bowl!
My version of the song “Memories” is a bit different than the one Barbra Streisand made famous…
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
It’s our traditions
Matzo balls and chicken soup evoke special memories for most people. Everyone’s favorite part of the chicken soup is that wonderful white matzo ball sitting in the center of the bowl.
Matzo balls, also known as kneidlach, come in all sizes and shapes, from miniature to mammoth. Some people like them light and fluffy, while others prefer them dense and doughy. There is an ongoing debate in many families as to which type is better – “floaters” or “sinkers.”
When my assistant Shelley Sefton got engaged, she took her fiancé Daniel to meet his future in-laws. Shelley’s late mother Daphne Zarenda served them her special chicken soup with matzo balls and Daniel politely complimented his future mother-in-law on how light and delicious they were.
On the way home, Daniel confessed to Shelley that although her mom’s matzo balls were very good, they definitely weren’t heavy enough – not like his mother’s “sinkers!” Daniel declared, “My mother says matzo balls have to be “sinkers” or they’re no good!”
To this day, Shelley still continues to make floaters, just like her mother taught her, much to Daniel’s dismay. And each time he says “That was lovely soup, honey, but your matzo balls are still not “sinkers!”
When my Auntie Clara Tobin was alive, she would make huge white “sinkers” each Passover. There were usually 25 or 30 hungry guests at her long series of tables which stretched from one end of her dining room to the far end of her living room. She would prepare the mixture earlier in the day and as soon as the Seder began, she would shape the kneidelach and drop them into a huge pot of boiling water to simmer away. Her giant matzo balls were served “hot from the pot” as soon as the first part of the Seder finished and my cousin Myrna and I always managed to eat at least two or three. Unfortunately, my Auntie Clara’s recipe has been lost over the years, much to my dismay, and Myrna often uses a mix. However, the memory of Auntie Clara’s marvelous matzo balls and her special smile will always live on in my memory.
Besides texture, quantity is another big question. At the Passover Seder, we believe that the fifth question should be “How many matzo balls would you like – one or two?” The polite son replies “Two please, if you have enough!” But the hungry son replies “I’ll have at least four!”
My friend Monty Joffin has vivid childhood memories of sitting at the Passover table in Johannesburg, South Africa, with his older brother Ellie. Soup spoons in hand, they waited eagerly for their mother, Tziva, to serve her delicious matzo ball soup. According to Monty, she was famous for killing vegetables because she always overcooked them, but her matzo balls were legendary.
As Monty recounted his story, he was overcome with the flavor of food memories from his childhood. He sighed, “My mother’s matzo balls were huge and wonderful. I can still remember exactly how they tasted. They were light and fluffy, bigger than a golf ball, but slightly smaller than a tennis ball. If her matzo balls were good, then all would be right with the world for the next year. But if her matzo balls weren’t good, there would be worry and concern over what might befall us until next Pesach!”
Their mother would wait to be judged by her two sons – and Monty would usually have four matzo balls, much to her delight!
Monty still likes his matzo balls to be big and fluffy, but he makes them from a mix. They come close to his mother’s version in appearance, but he admits they are missing that special something that only a mother’s touch can produce!
My mother, Belle Rykiss of Winnipeg, always makes matzo balls that are light and “puchedich.” During the year, she adds baking powder to the mixture to make them as light as a cloud. (You can omit it during Passover, or use Passover baking powder.) Mom can always tell the difference between matzo balls made from a mix and those that are homemade. You can never fool my mother! Enjoy…
MOM’S MATZO BALLS
Process all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the Steel Blade just until smooth, about 10 seconds. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour, or in freezer for 20 minutes, until thickened.
Shape into small balls. Drop into boiling salted water in a large pot and cook, partially covered, for about 40 minutes.
Yield: about 14 to 16. May be frozen in soup.
LOW-FAT MATZO BALLS
Club soda is the secret ingredient to make these matzo balls light and fluffy. Each matzo ball contains 25 calories, 3 grams carbohydrate and less than a gram of fat.
1/2 cup matzo meal
1. In a large bowl, combine matzo meal, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Add egg, egg whites, club soda, oil and dill. Mix until blended. Cover bowl and refrigerate mixture for 30 to 60 minutes. It will thicken upon standing.
2. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Wetting your hands for easier shaping, form mixture into 1-inch balls. Carefully add matzo balls to pot, cover tightly and simmer for 45 to 50 minutes. No peeking allowed!
3. With a slotted spoon, carefully remove matzo balls from water and transfer to hot chicken soup or vegetable broth.
Yield: 12 matzo balls. Freezes well (see Chef’s Secrets, below).. This recipe can be doubled easily, but be sure to use a large pot so the matzo balls can expand.
If you prefer firmer matzo balls, add 1 or 2 tbsp. additional matzo meal to the matzo ball mixture.
CHICKEN SOUP WITH MATZO BALLS OR PASSOVER NOODLES
3 1/2 to 4 lbs. chicken, cut up
1. Trim excess fat from chicken, but don’t remove the skin as it adds flavour. Place chicken in a large soup pot. Add water, covering chicken completely by at least 1 inch. Add salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Use a slotted spoon to remove scum from the surface of the soup.
2. Add onions, carrots, celery and parsnip to pot. Reduce heat and simmer, partly covered, for 1 1/4 hours. Add garlic and dill and simmer 15 minutes longer. Adjust salt to taste. Season with freshly ground pepper. Remove pot from heat and cool completely.
3. Strain soup, reserving carrots and chicken. Refrigerate overnight. The next day, discard hardened layer of fat from surface of soup. Remove skin from chicken and dice meat for soup. Reheat soup with diced chicken and carrots. Serve with Matzo Balls or noodles.
Makes 8 generous servings. Freezes and reheats well.
HERBED PASSOVER NOODLES
These noodles are based on my recipe for Passover blintzes and are non-gebrochts.
1 /2 cup potato starch
1. Combine potato starch, salt, egg and egg whites. Whisk together until no lumps remain. Gradually whisk in water, oil and basil; mix until smooth. (Can be done in a food processor.) Let batter stand for 15 minutes. Batter can be refrigerated up to 24 hours in advance.
2. Use a crepe pan or nonstick skillet. Grease pan lightly for the first blintz, or spray pan with nonstick spray. Stir mixture well. Pour about 3 tbsp. batter (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan) into the skillet. Cook about 1 minute, until edges are brown and top surface is dry. Flip the blintz onto its second side and cook 10 seconds longer. Turn out onto a clean tea towel.
3. Repeat with remaining batter, stirring occasionally to prevent potato starch from settling to the bottom. If blintzes begin to stick to the pan, grease pan with a little oil on a paper towel.
4. Roll each pancake up like a jelly roll and cut into 1/4-inch strips. At serving time, add to hot chicken soup.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings. Reheats and/or freezes well.