As a child, most “Jewish” food scared me.
At my grandparent’s house, we were offered delicacies such as tongue, pate and gefilte fish at an early age. While I politely declined, just being in the same room with such things was enough to gross me out.
While some of the traditional dishes were too unusual for my youthful pallet, there were a few favorites that all the grandkids loved. Noodle kugel, charoset (which is an apple/walnut chutney) and latkes, of course, won us over every time.
While I am still a huge fan of latkes, and make them every year, matzo ball soup has always been my favorite. For some reason, though, until recently I had never tried to make it.
I can’t explain why. Maybe I was scared it wouldn’t live up to my memories? I make soup all the time, and my husband is obsessed with chicken noodle soup. So I thought since it was Hanukah and we never really celebrate any of the Jewish holidays I should tackle the project.
While traditional versions call for a simple soup, basically chicken broth and matzo balls, I wanted to make a more substantial version that could serve as a meal.
I started by making good chicken stock. I used a roasted chicken to save time. After reserving the meat for the soup, I used the bones for the stock along with onions, celery, carrots, garlic and bay leaves.
I researched some tricks for making matzo balls, and here is what I learned: Make them smaller than you think you should since they expand, keep them covered if you want them to be light and fluffy, and give them time to set up in the refrigerator.
I added a lot of vegetables to the soup so we could eat it for dinner like I would with chicken noodle: onions, carrots and celery.
The flavor was amazing, and the soup was delicious, but my matzo balls were on the denser side since I didn’t follow my own instructions of keeping them covered. Whoops. They still tasted good, and I would make this soup again.
I think it is one of those dishes where practice makes perfect. Or, maybe you have to be truly Jewish to make good ones, and I am only partly so.
Matzo ball soup is a really filling dish that almost anyone would like. My grandmother often served it with brisket, but I think if you fill it with chicken and veggies it is fine on its own. If you have kids, they would probably have fun making the balls, and it is interesting to watch them double in size as they cook.