Food

Matzo Ball Soup for Passover

Seder dinner is not complete without this comforting bowl.

Seder dinner is not complete without this comforting bowl

(Photography by Leila Ashtari)

For many of us marking the start of Passover with family gathered for Seder dinner, this chicken soup with dumplings is a cherished part of the meal. At that table, matzo balls serve as an Ashkenazi Jewish cultural symbol and reminder of past hardships — matzo representing the unleavened bread that the Jewish people ate in the desert to sustain themselves during their exodus from Egypt. Constantly in movement, they didn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise. At Seder dinner, many of us slow down, acknowledging the history around this meal, and enjoying the TLC it brings. The full-flavoured broth and delightfully fluffy soup dumplings will leave you feeling nourished and comforted. 

(Photography by Leila Ashtari)

Matzo Ball Soup for Passover

This recipe makes 6 substantial appetizer servings. Make double the matzo balls to serve this soup as a meal. 

The stock can be made a couple days ahead. Store the carrots and shredded chicken breast separate from the stock. 

Note: If you require a kosher chicken for the recipe, you can find one at a local kosher butcher. If using a kosher chicken, start with half the amount of salt when making the broth, and adjust the seasoning to taste at the end.

Ingredients

Chicken stock:

  • 3-pound chicken*
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut in thirds crosswise
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces crosswise
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces crosswise
  • ¼ leek (the white or light green part), cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 large yellow onion, unpeeled and quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 8 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 12 cups cold water
  • ½ cup chopped fresh dill

Matzo balls:

  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup matzo meal
  • 3 tbsp schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), melted
  • ⅛ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp seltzer or sparkling water

Preparation

For the chicken stock:

Remove the skin and fat from the chicken, except for the wings. You’ll be left with about a ½ cup of skin and fat. Set it aside for later. 

Cut the chicken into 8 pieces, bone-in: breasts halved; thighs, legs and wings separated. 

Add the chicken and all of the stock ingredients except for the dill, to a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, uncovered, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Skim the fat off the surface, then simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

Remove the chicken breasts from the pot. Once cooled a bit, shred the meat from the breasts with 2 forks or your hands. Set aside. 

Continue simmering the stock for another 2 hours and 15 minutes. Then strain the liquid into a medium pot. Discard the solids, but reserve the carrots, cut them into ¼-inch pieces, and set aside.

Make the schmaltz by slicing the chicken skin and fat into small pieces, and sautéing them in a non-stick pan over medium-low heat with ¼ cup water, stirring frequently. Once the scraps are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes, strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth, and let cool on the counter. Discard the gribenes (scraps) — or eat them, patting them with a paper towel to soak up the oil, and seasoning with salt.

For the matzo balls:

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, then mix in the matzo meal, cooled schmaltz, pepper, salt and seltzer. Cover, and place in the fridge for 1 hour. 

Wet your hands with water, and roll a scant 3 tablespoons of the matzo mixture into a ball approximately 1½ inches in size. Continue with the rest of the mixture to make 12 matzo balls.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the matzo balls to the pot, cover, and cook for 1 hour. (Boiling the matzo balls directly in the chicken stock will make it cloudy.) 

Soup assembly:

Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil, and add the carrots and shredded chicken breast. Drain the cooked matzo balls, and add to the soup. Add dill and cook for a couple of minutes until everything is hot. 

Yield: Makes 6 servings


Ariel Lefkowitz is a Canadian/American food writer, chef, and video journalist based in Montreal, Que. She has been a trained chef for over a decade. Ariel believes that cooking is a critical part of self-care that should be joyful, sustainable and accessible. She is currently developing a comedic cooking show, titled 'Cooking in the Cut'. Follow her at @cookinginthecut.

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