Adam and I met while I was working in a dumpy little coffee shop in downtown Portland. He’d come in get a cup of tea, then sit in a corner and listen to Bach. Giant headphones on and eyes closed. Within months, and after being held-up at the bank he worked at, I managed to convince my boss to offer him a job. We worked side by side at the espresso machine talking books, music and life. Apparently, it was when I spoke of Ella Fitzgerald’s silky voice that he fell for me.
Six months of courting, flirting and building a tight bond of friendship, led to our first kiss on Christmas night. That will be three years ago this Saturday. Sigh. And I still can’t get enough of him.
During the early months of our relationship, one of our favorite things to do on a blustery winter’s day was to wander up to Elephants Delicatessen and pick up a bowl of matzo ball soup. That was my first introduction to matzo ball soup and I was immediately hooked. When my spoon dipped down and pressed up against the doughy little balls, it was like a little prize at the bottom of the bowl. Kind of like when you poured a bunch of sugar on top of your cereal when you were a kid and excitedly anticipated the mountain of wet and creamy sugar at the bottom of the bowl. Or was that just me?
I tried to make matzo ball soup a couple of years ago, and it sort of turned out. I was too cheap to buy actual matzo meal and tried it with saltines. Definitely not the same. I got the real deal for this recipe, but still kept it simple. Loads of chicken broth, a bit of parsley and paprika, and leftover game hen from dinner with Adam’s folks. Did you know that game hen are baby chickens? Poor little guys…
I used a recipe in Amanda Hesser’s The Essential NY Times Cookbook, a book of which I’m totally addicted to by the way, as a guide. As usual, I tweaked a few things here and there. You’ll find matzo meal on the grocery shelves, as well as matzo crackers. Feel free to use the meal, but know that they often add spices and seasonings. I bought the crackers, broke them in pieces and finely ground them in the food processor.
One more note, the balls tend to absorb a lot of the broth as their cooking, so it’s also a good idea to have some extra stock on hand to add to the pot as the balls are cooking. You can also use water.
What you’ll need~
6 large eggs
2+ tablespoons chopped parsley
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups matzo meal
1/4-teaspoon baking powder
1-cup club soda
2+ quarts chicken stock
Optional: 1 shallot, thinly sliced and caramelized
Optional: Leftover chicken bits, if you have them on hand
Pepper to taste
Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Whisk in parsley, sage, salt, pepper and paprika. Whisk in the melted butter, matzo meal and baking powder. At this point, the dough was clumping up between the wires of the whisk, so I switched from whisking to stirring with a wooden spoon. Stir in club soda, cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. I let mine chill for about 1 & 1/2 hours.
Once the dough is chilled, bring broth to a boil on the stove. Moisten your hands and roll dough into 1-2 inch balls. Drop the balls in your broth in batches and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 25-30 minutes until balls are tender and double in size.
Line a large plate or platter with a clean and dry kitchen towel. Using a slotted spoon, remove balls from stock and place on kitchen towel to drain.
Add broth or water to the pot as needed and drop in second batch of balls and cook. Once the second batch of balls are done cooking, add the first batch of balls back to the soup to reheat.
At this point I added the caramelized shallot and leftover bits of game hen to the pot. You certainly don’t need to add anything else, but I found the soup to be a good vehicle for leftover poultry.
Ladle soup into bowls and place two matzo balls in each. Serve hot.