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Classic Matzo Ball Soup

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Serves 4

Let's set the record straight: the secret to great matzo ball soup is not the matzo balls (though these are light and fluffy and delicious, flavored with schmaltz, or chicken fat, as is traditional) but the broth. The homemade broth in this rendition is made from roasted chicken wings and is rich but clear, tasting first of chicken and second of sweet aromatic vegetables. Much of the work can be done in advance, but if you want to make and serve the soup on the same day, begin cooking about seven hours ahead. To make this recipe kosher for Passover, see the tip below.

For the schmaltz and the broth
  • 1-1/2 lb. chicken wings (about 8)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and halved
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and halved crosswise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
For the matzo balls
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal (or 2-1/4 matzo crackers, finely ground)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder (see tip below to make the recipe kosher for Passover)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soup
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, cut into medium dice (1 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice (3/4 cup)
  • 2 medium celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch dice (3/4 cup)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Make the schmaltz and the broth

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.

Arrange the chicken wings in a single layer in an ovenproof 5- to 6-quart heavy-duty pot. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt. Roast, flipping once, until the fat from the wings has rendered (this is schmaltz) and the wings are golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Pour the schmaltz into a small bowl to cool; you should have about 2 Tbs.

Cover the wings with 3 inches of cool water (about 1 gallon). Bring to a simmer over high heat, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Turn the heat down to low, and cook uncovered, for at least 4 and up to 6 hours. The ideal temperature for cooking the broth is 185°F, which means the water is very hot and giving off steam, but not bubbling.

Add the onion, carrots, bay leaf, peppercorns, and 1 tsp. salt, turn the heat up to medium high, and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low and cook the same way—hot but not bubbling—for 1 to 1-1/2 hours more.

Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl, and then strain it again through a damp, clean, fabric-softener-free cloth or heavy-duty paper towels into another bowl. You should have about 8 cups of broth; if you have less, add water to make 8 cups.

Skim any fat that rises to the top of the broth, transfer it to the bowl of schmaltz, and refrigerate until solidified, about 20 minutes.

Make the matzo balls
Tip:
To make these matzo balls kosher for Passover, omit the baking powder and substitute 2 Tbs. seltzer water for the 2 Tbs. of broth, adding more seltzer as needed to adjust the consistency. This will keep the texture light and fluffy without using chemical leaveners.

Combine the matzo meal, eggs, 2 Tbs. of the schmaltz, 2 Tbs. of the broth, the baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a medium bowl, gently stirring until thickened, about 1 minute. The mixture should be a sticky paste that holds together but is not heavy or dense; if you need to add more broth to achieve this consistency, add 1 Tbs. at a time, up to 1/4 cup more total. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Using wet hands, very gently form rounded tablespoonfuls of the matzo mixture into 12 1-inch balls, transferring them to a plate. Do not overwork or compress the mixture, or the matzo balls will be dense.

Make the soup

Heat 2 Tbs. schmaltz (or, if you don’t have enough schmaltz, add vegetable oil to make 2 Tbs. of fat) in a 4-quart pot over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and browned at the edges, about 6 minutes. Add the remaining broth and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt, if necessary.

With wet hands, add the matzo balls to the soup and return it to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer until the matzo balls are cooked through and doubled in size, about 30 minutes (no need to turn them). You can cut a matzo ball open to check for doneness—the color should be light throughout, with no raw-looking dough in the center—or you can insert a toothpick into the center; if it slides in and out without resistance, they’re done. Serve the soup garnished with the parsley.

Make Ahead Tips

The rendered schmaltz can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for up to 4 months.

If making the broth ahead, cool the skimmed broth to room temperature, then refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 4 months; defrost in the refrigerator overnight.

The batter for the matzo balls can be made up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 210; Fat (g): fat g 12; Fat Calories (kcal): 110; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 3.5; Protein (g): protein g 10; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 5; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 17; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2.5; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 740; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 70; Fiber (g): fiber g 1;

Photo: Scott Phillips

My family doesn't have a tradition of making matzo ball soup, but because we live in Chicago, we know good soup-- and this was very good! Moreover, the matzo balls were lovely-- light, but substantial, and very tasty. Finally, they were a dream to make-- just mix, rest, form, and poach. I made a batch with schmaltz and a batch with drippings from a pork roast (did I mention no family tradition?) and if you don't mind a little oink in your dumplings, the pork ones were great too.

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