matzo ball soup

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Chicken Stock

The single most helpful thing you can keep on-hand if you wish to make your own soups and stocks is a stock bag, a concept I picked up from Sara Moulton way back when. This is a bag you keep in your freezer with ingredients you’re saving to flavor a soup base. It’s especially awesome for those of us who hate throwing things away–you never have to. Chopping leeks tonight? Throw the tough green ends in your stock bag. Discarding mushroom stems? Add them too. Only using half that onion? Don’t let it grow old and forgotten in your fridge.

This works for chicken as well. When you go to buy chicken for a dish, grab a whole one and ask the guy behind the counter to chop it for you. It costs a lot less and you can then save the back and wings (because who eats wings?) in a separate stock bag, so they’ll be ready when you are.

Yield: Approximately 3.5 quarts

3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds chicken necks, backs and wings
3 celery ribs, cut into big chunks
3 carrots, scrubbed and cut into big chunks
2 parsnips, scrubbed and cut into big chunks
2 onions, unpeeled and quartered
1 head garlic, cut horizontally in half
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
4 quarts cold water
–and/or–
Any vegetables you have stashed in your Stock Bag (described above)

Bring all ingredients to a boil in an 8- to 10-quart heavy pot. Skim froth. Reduce heat and gently simmer, uncovered for 3 hours.

Pour stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and discard solids. If using stock right away, skim off and discard any fat. If not, cool stock completely, uncovered, before skimming fat, then chill, covered. Reserve a few tablespoons of the skimmed fat if you wish to use them in matzo balls (below).

Stock can be chilled 3 days in the refrigerator or frozen 1 month.

Matzo Ball Soup

There are two matzo ball camps: those that like them heavy and leaden at the bottom of a bowl and those that like them light and fluffy–these are the latter, and in my mind, the better ones.

If you can’t find matzo meal, pulse a few pieces of matzo in your food processor until it is a coarse powder. If you can’t find matzo, well, you obviously do not live in New York City.

Makes 8 to 12 matzo balls

Matzo Balls
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons reserved chicken fat or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chicken stock or seltzer (which both of our mothers swear by for making the balls extra light)

For soup
2 to 3 quarts prepared chicken stock (recipe above)
1 carrot, thinly sliced
A few sprigs of dill

Mix all matzo ball ingredients in a bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Bring 1 1/2 quarts of well-salted water to a brisk boil in a medium sized pot.

Reduce the flame. Run your hands under water so they are thoroughly wet. Form matzo balls by dropping spoonfuls of matzo ball batter approximately 1-inch in diameter into the palm of your wet hands and rolling them loosely into balls. Drop them into the simmering salt water one at a time. Cover the pot and cook them for 30 to 40 minutes.

About ten minutes before the matzo balls are ready, bring prepared chicken stock to a simmer with the sliced carrot in it. Ladle some soup and a couple matzo balls into each bowl and top with a couple snips of dill. Eat immediately.


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