Monday, April 6, 2020

Matso Ball Soup

   Whenever I have some time to kill, or if I just need some down time, one of my usual escapes is watching videos on youtube. Sometimes I'll refer to it as "going down the youtube rabbit hole" because very often I'll start watching videos, and the next thing I know, it's 3 hours later. Anyway..
 I follow several channels, but I think my most favorite is from the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen. (ok, maaaaayybe I'm obsessed with it. Don't judge me). They have some of the best recipes, and the featured chefs on the channel are all hilarious and informative and they are the perfect cast of characters. Of course I love it when they all come together, like when they made the perfect Thanksgiving Dinner, or the perfect pizza, but then they also each have their own individual shows:
 Carla does a thing where she'll teach a guest how to make a recipe using only verbal instructions. In other words, they'll stand back to back, not being able to see what the other is doing. It's a pretty awesome gimmick, and frankly, I think I'd be up for the challenge, if you're listening, Carla.
Claire's show is about replicating common snack foods. Like, she made her own Oreos, and Girl Scout Cookies, and Doritos. It's amazing how detailed she gets.
Brad... (who cracks me up), does a show called It's Alive, where he uses fermentation.. which I'm just learning. I'm dying to make my own sauerkraut.
 I won't go into EVERY show they do.. but there are so many others that I feel like I've come to know them personally.... Andy is fabulous and gorgeous and I love that he always slices his onions while looking right into the camera.. I love how Chris smells his food for like a LONG time before he takes a bite, and is always listening to some 80s band I've never heard of... and he's always the final judge.. like, if CHRIS says it's good, then you know it's good...... And then we come to one of my very favorites, Molly.
 First of all, she has a dog named Tuna, which cracks me up. I'd love to ask her where that came from. And another thing I love about Molly, in addition to being hilarious and someone I'd love to hang out with, she does this thing where she abbreviates words as she's speaking. Like, black pepper, is black pep. Caesar Salad is Cae Sal. Potatoes are potates. So forth.
 Anyway, I could talk about the BA youtube channel forever, but the point is that I saw Molly making this recipe, and I immediately wanted to make it.
 I had been in the mood to make a "let it simmer all day" kind of recipe for a while, and this one answered the call. No, I'm not Jewish, but who doesn't love a nice big pot of chicken soup? And since it's different from the way I usually make my own chicken soup, I decided to give it a go.
 It turned out really well! It's SO deep and flavorful, you will not believe a broth could be so rich. And overall, there was nothing very difficult about it. It just took a little time and a few steps. FABULOUS.
 Now, I have it listed below as the recipe was originally printed. But then at the end, I listed a few things I would do differently next time. For instance, I love that she roasted the chicken wings before adding them to the stock, but there are a few minor things I would change. Anyway, just read the whole thing. See what works best for you. And at the end of the day, you'll have a fabulous and delicious bowl of soup. And if you find yourself with some time to kill, go look at the BA Test Kitchen Youtube Channel. It's really awesome! Maybe someday I'll get to meet them.
That would be pretty awesome!

6 lb. chicken wings
6 large eggs
1/2 cup melted schmaltz (chicken fat) or vegetable oil
6 tbs chicken broth or water
3 tbs chopped dill, plus more for serving
3 tbs plus 3 tsp. kosher salt, divided
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more
1 1/2 cups matzo meal
2 medium onions, peeled, cut in half
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
1 medium parsnip, cut into 2" pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 2" pieces
1 bunch parsley
1 tbs black peppercorns
3 medium carrots, 1 unpeeled, cut into 2" pieces, 2 peeled, thinly sliced crosswise
4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)

 Place a rack in top third of oven; preheat to 450°. Spread chicken wings on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast until golden brown, 45–55 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the matzo ball dough. Whisk eggs in a medium bowl until no streaks remain. Add schmaltz, broth, 3 tbs dill, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 3/4 tsp pepper and whisk vigorously to combine. Whisk in matzo meal until well combined. Chill at least 35 minutes or up to 2 hours (this is essential so that the matzo meal can hydrate).
Transfer wings and any accumulated juices on baking sheet to a large pot. Add onions, garlic, parsnip, celery, parsley, peppercorns, and 1 chopped (not sliced) carrot. Cover with 4 quarts water. Bring to a simmer and cook, adjusting heat as needed to maintain a simmer, until stock is slightly reduced, 45 minutes.
Season chicken legs with 1 1/2 tsp salt and let sit until ready to use. After stock has been simmering for 45 minutes, add chicken legs and simmer until legs are very tender, about 45 minutes longer.
 While chicken legs cook, poach the matzo balls. Bring 3 qt. water to a boil in a medium pot. Season with 3 tbs salt.
Using dampened hands, roll matzo mixture into 16 balls about 1 1/2" in diameter. It’s okay to really work them into a ball; they won’t get dense—trust us, we tried! Transfer to a small rimmed baking sheet or large plate.
Carefully lower matzo balls into boiling water with a slotted spoon, adjusting heat as needed to maintain a low simmer. Cover pot and simmer over low heat, checking occasionally to make sure water isn’t boiling too rapidly, until balls are very puffed and light in color, 30–40 minutes. Don’t remove them sooner than this; they will be dense in the middle if undercooked. Turn off heat and let balls sit in cooking liquid until ready to serve.
Back to the stock. Transfer chicken legs to a plate and let cool. Strain stock into a medium pot; discard wings and solids. Remove meat, discarding skin and bones. Tear chicken into bite-size pieces and return to stock. Add thinly sliced carrots. Return liquid to a simmer and cook until carrots are just tender, 3–4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning for salt.
 Using a slotted spoon, place 2 matzo balls in each bowl. Ladle soup over. Garnish with chopped dill and pepper. 
Do Ahead: Matzo balls can be made 2 days ahead. Transfer to an airtight container along with 2–3 Tbsp. cooking liquid and chill. Gently lower balls into soup and cook over medium-low heat until heated through, about 15 minutes. Stock (with shredded chicken) can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and chill. If you want a leaner soup, skim off schmaltz before reheating.

Ok, so, I'm not a trained chef, and they're definitely the experts, but here's what I would do differently. Sorry Molly, don't hate me!
I'm not gonna buy SIX POUNDS of chicken wings, just to discard them. I mean, I get it, I know that the point is to extract flavor out of them, but it just seems like such a waste to me. Same with the aromatics. I don't like the idea of adding carrots, and onions, and celery, and parsnips, only to strain them and throw them away. I do, however, like the idea of adding the onion skins and the whole head of unpeeled garlic, as well as the other skins to make a richer deeper broth. So, my plan for next time is to roast the chicken wings as directed, but maybe only do half as much, and then I'll just pull any meat from them and throw it back into the pot. And the aromatics can just stay in the soup. I'll just tie up the extra skins and such into a small cheesecloth bundle. This way we can boil all the goodness from them, and then easily fish it out of the pot.
Ok, now lets talk about the balls. I made them just as directed, and I found them to be a little dense and bit dilly, even after cooking them for more than the allotted time. Not being the authority on what matso balls should be, I looked at other recipes, just for the sake of comparison. I tried a recipe called Floater Matso Balls from, and I have to say, I think I like them a little better. First of all, they were much BIGGER (as you can see in the picture) and they were lighter and fluffier. According to her article, the fluffiness is attained from adding baking powder to the balls. From what I've read, this is a bone of contention with some people because of the leavening that it brings which some say is not permissible for Passover. But apparently baking powder is mineral based instead of grain based and is therefore Kosher, which means it is acceptable in matso balls. Again, I'm not Jewish, and I really don't know what I'm talking about. Just passing along what I've read. 
Anyway, back to the BA recipe... another thing I'd do differently is I think I'd like to poach the matso balls right in the soup. Why dirty another pot? They hold together rather tightly, (and so did the Floater Balls recipe) so I don't think they would ruin the broth, and they'd only taste better by being cooked in the soup, right? no? The only downside to that is that the balls would soak up some of the broth. So if you're feeding a crowd, you'll get more servings of soup if you poach them separately, but since it's just me, I'll poach them in the broth!

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