Monday, November 17, 2008

Chicken Soup and Matzoh Balls

It’s been cold in Portland since I’ve been back from Europe. So I decided to make chicken soup and matzoh balls. I’ve talked for years about doing this and just never got around to it. Using that initiative, I made myself do it. After all, I am Jewish and chicken soup is Jewish penicillin. It’s something I should know how to make.

When it comes to cooking, I always assume it’s going to be amazing and I won’t have any trouble making it. It’s this ridiculous overconfidence that allows me to make complicated things on whims. It usually works out. Even when cooking with a whole chicken for the first time and coming across my very first parsnip.

I busted out my 2nd Ave Deli Cookbook by Sharon Lebewohl and Rena Bulkin, which my husband bought for me when I misplaced my other deli cookbook. It’s really well written and funny and I recommend it to anyway who wants to make deli food. I did run into a few hiccups while making this, like Safeway selling me a partially frozen chicken that I had to spend time defrosting the rest of the way. Other than that though, this came out really, really tasty.

Chicken Soup from The 2nd Ave Deli Cookbook:

Serves 8

1 pound chicken parts
2 stalks celery, including leafy tops, cut into 3-inch pieces
1 whole chicken, thoroughly rinsed
Salt to rub inside chicken [I used kosher]
1 large whole onion, unpeeled (find one with a firm, golden-brown peel)
1 large whole carrot, peeled
1 medium whole parsnip, peeled
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper [I probably used more like ½-¾ teaspoon]
1 bunch of dill, clean and tied with a string

I also added about 5 cloves of garlic. I did say I love garlic.

Note: The Deli’s recipe calls for both a whole chicken plus 1 pound of chicken parts. You can, however, use just 1 large chicken and cut off the wings, the neck, and a leg to use as parts. [This is what I did. Do not add the liver to the pot. Cook it up and give it to your dog or something.]

Pour 12 cups of cold water into a large stockpot, and throw in the chicken parts and celery. Bring to a boil. While water is heating, rub the inside of the whole chicken with salt.

Add the chicken to the pot, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Test chicken with a fork to see if it’s tender and fully cooked. I had to cook mine for another 10-15 minutes to get nice, tender chicken. Remove it from the pot, and set aside on a large platter. Leave chicken parts in the pot.

Add onion, carrot, parsnip, salt and pepper. Let soup simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes. The recipe is very non-specific about what to do with the veggies. Since you’ll be straining everything out in the end anyway, you can cut some of them down a bit. I cut my onion in half. As for my garlic addition, I lightly crushed 3 cloves and tossed them in as well.

When chicken cools, remove skin and bones and cut into bite sized pieces. You can add it to the soup, just before serving, or save it for chicken salad. I had enough for both the soup and a snack chicken salad for when I got hungry while cooking. Strain the soup, and discard everything solid except the carrot. You can keep whatever veggies you actually want in the soup and cut them up along with the carrot to add to it instead of throwing them all out.

Drop in the dill for a minute just before serving and remove. Add salt and pepper to taste. Slice carrot and toss into soup. Also add the chicken pieces if desired. Add cooked noodles, rice, kasha or matzo balls.

This makes a ton of soup. When you’re done eating, let the rest of the soup cool, skim off the fat and refrigerate or freeze the rest. I refrigerated half and froze the other. When having some of the soup the next day, like all soups, it was even better. It could’ve lasted all week, but we just kept eating it!

While the soup was cooking, I got working on the matzoh balls. My husband doesn’t eat matzoh balls, so I made a half recipe, again from 2nd Ave Deli, and cooked up some noodles for him. This is the half recipe with my modifications. I ended up with 10 of them.

½ tablespoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/6 cup olive oil [the book says schmaltz, but I don’t have this nor do I want to make rendered chicken fat. I checked with my dad – olive oil is okay]
1/8 teaspoon pepper [this is the half size. It could really use a lot more.]
½ tablespoon baking powder
½ plus 1/6 cups matzo meal

Fill a large, wide stockpot three-quarters full of water, add ½ tablespoon of water, and bring to a rapid boil. If you’re doing a full recipe, it’s really important to have a wide stockpot. The balls need room to float while they’re cooking.

While water is boiling, crack eggs into a large bowl and beat thoroughly. Beat in oil, rest of salt, pepper and baking powder. Slowly fold in matzo meal, mixing
vigorously until completely blended.

Wet hands and, folding the mixture in your palms, shape perfect balls about 1¼ inches in diameter (they will double in size when cooked). Gently place the matzo balls in the boiling water, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place 1 or 2 in each bowl of soup. Serve immediately.

These came out so very good. They were fluffy and not too dense. Pretty dang close to perfect. When my parents came to visit the weekend after I made them, my dad told me I had done a very good job. But more pepper. My dad’s a pepper on everything guy, but I totally agree. Do not skimp on the spices for these.
Posted by Becca at 11:36 AM

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