Dig in!

Matzo ball soup at its most elegant, with clarified broth and thoughtfully cut garnish. Photos by Donna Turner Ruhlman

I had a question for my friend and neighbor Lois Baron and her email ended thus: “By the way, Passover is almost here and I am making more schmaltz plus some highpowered horseradish. Hope you have a fabulous Easter. Love the schmaltz lady.”

I do love the Schmaltz Lady! She helped educate me in the ways of schmaltz, the glorious rendered chicken fat that makes everything taste better, especially things like these matzo balls, one of the greatest chicken soup garnishes ever! The photos above and below are from our app for iPads (minis too): The Book of Schmaltz: A Love Song to a Forgotten Fat, a short cookbook with twenty recipes for traditional Jewish dishes (kishke, cholent), as well as contemporary recipes putting this great fat to use (savory brioche, vichyssoise) and great photography of all the dishes. (Here’s the video I made for the app; David Leite reviews the app glowingly at Leite’s Culinaria.)

The good folks of Edamam, a food-search database that aims to make finding good things to eat easier, are doing a giveaway of the app starting today on their Pinterest board.

Here in Cleveland, it’s cold and gloomy and I feel that some chicken soup with matzo balls, rustic as below, will be good for body and soul. It doesn’t have to be rustic, though; it can be four-star elegant if you put some craft into it!

Warms you up. A beautiful bowl of homemade matzo ball soup.  Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Matzo balls in soup can be plain, as here, or, at top, elegant. Either way they’re delicious.

There are two camps when it comes to matzo balls: those who prefer sinkers and those who like them light. I prefer the latter so you’ll find that these are light and fluffy.

Classic Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls

AKA Mr. Fluffies

Matzo Balls

  • 1 cup/140 grams matzo meal (or 4 squares of matzo, well pulverized in a food processor)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup/60 grams schmaltz, melted (or, sigh, vegetable oil)
  • 1/4 cup/30 grams gribenes (optional)
  • 1/4 cup/60 milliliters chicken stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until they are all thoroughly mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
  2. With damp hands, form the matzo mixture into 8 golf ball-sized orbs (they will double in size).

For the Soup

  • 2 tablespoons/30 grams schmaltz (or canola oil if you’re low on schmaltz)
  • 1 Spanish onion, cut into medium dice
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into medium dice (optional)
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into medium dice (optional)
  • 2 quarts/2 liters chicken stock
  • salt to taste
  • 8 matzo balls
  • Chopped gribenes and parsley for finishing garnish (optional)
  1. In a large pot, melt the schmaltz over high heat, add the onion (and carrots and celery if using), and cook for a few minutes, just until the onion is translucent, giving it a four-finger pinch of salt as you stir.
  2. Add the stock and bring it to a simmer. Taste it and add more salt, if necessary. Add the matzo balls and let the soup return to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the matzo balls are cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes.

Serves 8

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© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.