Matzo Ball Soup
Executive Vice President, the James Beard Foundation; Author, Kitchen Sense (Clarkson Potter, 2006)
For the soup:
- 1/2 large chicken (about 2 1/2 pounds), cut into pieces or a combination of necks, backs, wings, and other chicken parts to equal 4 pounds
- 4 stalks celery, tops included, roughly chopped
- 3 to 4 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
- 1 small parsnip, roughly chopped
- 1 small turnip, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 point of a star anise
- 4 sprigs fresh dill
For the matzo balls:
- 5 large eggs
- 4 tablespoons hot chicken soup or water
- 3 tablespoons chicken fat (schmaltz), skimmed from the soup
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt plus more for cooking water
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons matzo meal
Make the soup: place all of the ingredients except the dill in an 8-quart stock pot and add about 3 quarts of cold water to cover. Set over high heat and bring to a boil, skimming any froth that rises to the surface. Turn the heat down to low, set the cover ajar, and simmer for about 2 hours.
Add the dill and continue simmering an additional 45 minutes. Turn off the heat, cool to room temperature, and strain through a fine sieve. Refrigerate. If you can prepare the soup a day or two in advance, it will taste even better. Skim off any fat that coagulates on the surface and reserve the fat for the matzo balls.
Make the matzo balls: a few hours before serving, prepare the matzo balls. In a large pot, bring the strained soup to a simmer. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, soup (or water), chicken fat, and salt. Beat in the matzo meal and refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 hour.
Bring about 5 quarts of water to a boil with 1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt dissolved in it. Remove the matzo meal mixture from the fridge. Wet your hands with cold water and gently shape about 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a sphere by rolling it around in the palms of your hands. Try not to compact the ball too much. Note that the matzo balls will swell to more than double their size when cooked.
Add the rolled matzo balls to the boiling salted water and repeat with the remaining mixture. Bring the water back to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer, tightly cover the pot, and cook for about 40 minutes until the matzo balls are floating on the surface, puffed, and snowy white. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the matzo balls to the hot soup. Keep warm until you are ready to serve.
4 to 8 servings, depending on whether you want Carnegie Deli size portions, or just ordinary portions