Probably not your grandmother’s matzo ball soup

From the better-late-than-never department, Happy Hanukkah!

Trying to figure out which recipe to use for my first attempt at matzo ball soup was more than a little daunting. Just figuring out the proper spelling is hard enough. There are thousands of recipes (each handed down from a grandmother, it seems) in cookbooks and online and, as far as I can tell, each and every one of them is different and most of the claim to be the only way to make authentic matzo ball soup.

“We are a people of the law,” a Jewish friend once told me. Oh, yeah? If that’s true,  all the Jewish grandmothers should get together and make a law about matzo ball soup so novices like me can catch a break. Or, at least agree how to spell it – matzo, matzah, matzoh…Somebody decide already.

In the end, I went with a very simple recipe from that great font of Jewish wisdom, The New York Times. It was probably beginner’s luck, but my matzo balls turned out light and fluffy (I sighed with relief when they started popping to the top of the pot – floaters vs. sinkers is another debate of Talmudic proportions that we won’t get into here) and the broth was clear, flavourful and just a little sweet thanks to the parsnip (thanks for that advice Jackie), which I would never have thought of putting in on my own.

Here’s the soup I made. My apologies to all the other grandmothers, whose recipes, I am certain, are much better than this. And, again, Happy (belated) Hanukkah! Or, is that Chanukah?

Matzo Ball Soup

Adapted from The New York TImes, Feb 22, 2006

Make the broth like this, but add a chopped up parsnip for a touch of sweetness. Heat the finished broth  (about 1-1/2 cups per person on medium and add a peeled, sliced carrot.) Season with a little salt and pepper.  Cook until the carrot is soft and set aside.

For the matzo balls

Note: if you can’t find matzo meal, buy matzo (flat, cracker-like unleavened bread) and pulse in a food processor until you get fairly even fine crumbs)

1 cup matzo meal

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons schmaltz (rendered chicken fat, sold at butcher shops) or, olive or canola oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ cup seltzer (I used carbonated mineral water)

Chopped fresh dill for garnish

Combine matzo meal, eggs, schmaltz or oil, salt and baking powder. Mix together very well and add seltzer or carbonated water. Mix together again. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least one hour.

Fill a large pot (the matzo balls expand quite a bit while cooking) with water and bring to a simmer. With cold, wet hands, form matzo into one-inch balls and drop into the water (they should pop up to the top within a few minutes). Simmer for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle goes easily through the matzo ball and they are fluffy in the middle. Refrigerate until needed.

Heat the broth and carrot and add matzo balls. Heat until matzo balls are heated through. Serve one matzo ball in the middle of a bowl surrounded by broth and carrot. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with chopped dill. Enjoy.

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