Guys. It's almost Passover, which means, it's matzo ball season. (It's also almost Easter, which means CADBURY CREAM EGG SEASON OMG. But there's no way to make those healthy.) I could eat matzo ball soup daily, but it's not very nutritious. There's usually just some bone broth (ideally) and the balls. Occasionally you get a carrot or some celery, but there's not much to it. The consequence of this non-nutrition is that I take 100 years to order in a diner. I always want the soup, but what else do you get that has some protein and veggies, but isn't a full meal because you already have soup? CONUNDRUM. I think it might be the thing Ethan hates most about me.
Anyway, I've never made matzo balls before, but I have a very specific idea of what taste and texture I like. Three batches later, I've learned a few things! My first batch flaked apart a bit, so I did some research about texture and unfortunately, got contradictory advice about the amount of matzo needed. Instead, the keys for me were resting the mixture and incorporating the eggs well.
Timing: Once the matzo, fat, seltzer, eggs, salt, and pepper have been mixed together, this gloop needs to rest for at least an hour, but my most successful batch rested for about 3. My first rested for over 5 hours (oops) and my second rested for 30 minutes, but both flaked apart somewhat, so I think the 1-3 hour range is your sweet spot.
Eggs: I suggest really beating the eggs well with a whisk or a fork. Make your wrist tired. You want the whites and yolks to be very well integrated to keep the balls together.
Also, the seltzer is ABSOLUTELY necessary.
And a note about salt: I like my matzo balls a little salty, so if 2 tsp is too much for you, dial it back a bit.
So! This recipe is a long one and definitely best for a weekend or occasion (your seder?). But there are many places where one could take shortcuts (use pre-made stock, rotisserie chicken, and pre-chopped kale and this is a much quicker process.) On the upside, this soup can actually pass for lunch (there are green veggies and protein!), so if you put the time in, you get a rounded meal that's appealing to young (M) and old (me.) M has finally accepted eating leaves of green and not just in puree form, so he's into this soup. But I pureed my first batch of to see how it went and it was great, but needed straining. Like, even my laziness couldn't deal with the stringy chives and kale stalks when first pureed.
Green matzo ball chicken soup
For the stock:
2.5-3 lbs chicken (some combo of bone-in, skin on chicken parts, but at least one or two bone-in, skin-on breasts for the soup later)
1 celery rib
1 bay leaf
Generous salt and pepper (I use 1 Tbsp of salt, at least)
2 cloves garlic, smashed
8 cups water (or more; make sure the chicken and veggies are fully submerged in water)
Add all of the ingredients to a large stock pot, slow cooker, or pressure cooker (I used an Instant Pot). Cook according to your appliance’s directions or if using stove top, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 3 hours. If using a pressure cooker, let the steam release on its own.
When stock is done, pour through a strainer and collect all liquid. You should have about 9 cups (give or take depending on your cooking method and how much water evaporates). Save the chicken meat, but discard the rest of the aromatics, veggies, and any skin or bones that were floating in the stock. In separate containers, store the broth and the chicken in the fridge, covered, for at least 3 hours, or until the fat rises to the top and congeals. I like to leave the stock overnight to really separate the liquid and the fat. When cooled, skim the fat from the top and store in a separate container to use in the matzo balls.
For the matzo balls:
½ cup matzo meal
2 large eggs, well-beaten
2 Tbsp schmaltz or olive oil (I use the rendered fat from the chicken stock and top it off with olive oil if necessary)
2 Tbsp seltzer
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When chilled, form the dough into 8-10 balls using wet hands and drop each into the boiling water as soon as it’s formed. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 40 minutes.
For the soup:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small shallot
1 stalk celery
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup chives, chopped
3 cups kale, chopped and well packed
Salt and pepper
8-9 cups chicken stock (if not making your own chicken stock, try to find homemade from somewhere else- don’t use the stuff in a box from the store for this)
2 tsp salt
Shredded chicken (about 3 cups or whatever comes off of your cooked chicken from the stock)
Heat the oil in a large stock pot. Add the roughly chopped shallot and celery. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, kale, and chives and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes more. Add the stock and water and bring to a boil. Turn the flame to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes more to reheat. Test for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
Pour soup over the matzo balls and serve.
Yield: 8-10 matzo balls and 80 oz soup or 8-9 cups; I suggest serving 1 matzo ball with 1 cup of soup for an appetizer or 2 balls and 2 cups of soup for a meal.