Whew. That was a lot of food. A lot of prep. A lot of wine! But worth it.
So many recipes and stories I could be sharing. While we had a few last-minute drop-outs (we always do), those who did come ate well and laughed often. When I looked around the table, I was overwhelmed with how much history and love was sitting there. We had “Team B.”, a family with whom I grew up. Five siblings, W., K., L., P. and C. and their parents, K. and P. Five of the seven of them were with us last night. One of them, K., is pregnant and her husband also joined us. Speaking of the next generation, K. is currently pregnant and my cousin and her husband brought their son, N., who is about 3 months old. It was so nice to look around the table and see so many generations.
So, lots of good food. Chicken, brisket, veggies, dessert…. And of course, matzo ball soup. Matzo ball soup is chicken soup with little balls of love floating in it. Matzo balls are sort of like dumplings but not really. So I suppose I’ll start with those. They are the staple of every Jewish table.
There is a big debate amongst those who eat matzo balls- fluffy or dense? I personally like both. Sort of chewy? Good for me. Light as air? Delicious. I simply love matzo balls, regardless of texture. In fact, I think I can safely say that I’ve never met a matzo ball I didn’t like. But people get really passionate about their preference. It’s cutthroat.
My grandmother’s matzo balls were small and fluffy. I’ve never been able to re-create them. She didn’t have a recipe written down- and why would she? Matzo balls are a mixture of matzo meal, eggs, fat and salt. Pretty simple.- and so I’ve spent years and many different recipes in an attempt to make hers. My first attempt at matzo balls was when I was about eight or nine. I used a recipe I found in one of my favorite children’s cookbooks, The Fun Of Cooking. My grandmother thought they were delicious. But she thought everything I made or did was delicious.
I then discovered matzo ball soup and mix and used that for zillions of years. Those matzo balls are ok- not particularly fluffy or dense. They’re soft and full of broth. Good for healing a cold or making you feel like you’re at home if you’re in, say Colorado, a long, long way from home and your grandmother. They’ll also do when you’re in D.C., not so far from home but missing your grandmother who has recently passed away, taking her fluffy matzo balls with her.
So this year, I compromised. I made one set of mazto balls from a mix and one set from scratch. In the end, I could tell the difference but I’m not sure anyone else could. Take home message? Do whatever is easiest for you!
2/3 scant cup of matzo meal (NOT matzo cake meal)
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup of canola or vegetable oil (if you’re really good, you should use schmaltz, or chicken fat- much tastier)
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
Cooking liquid- boiling water/soup/broth- about 10 cups
Mix the egg yolks, salt and oil/fat in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Alternating between egg whites and matzo meal, fold each into the egg mixture. It’s nearly impossible to do this without losing some of the air in the egg whites, so just do your best. Put the mixture in the fridge for at least 15 minutes or a few hours. Meanwhile, heat your cooking liquid. If you’re going to serve the soup right away, cook the matzo balls in it. If you’re going to serve it later, best to cook the matzo balls separately and add them to your soup a few minutes before serving it. They suck up a lot of the liquid, a lesson I learned the first year I did a big seder and left it on the stove. We had 28 people and I ran out of soup very quickly. I had to add water and broth as I was serving, just to make sure everyone got a little bit of liquid along with the matzo ball and veggies!
So, boil your liquid. I used chicken broth which I think adds more flavor than plain water. Wet your hands, take a small amount of the matzo mixture and roll it into a ball- sort of the size of a walnut. Don’t worry, they’ll double in size when they cook. Drop it into the boiling broth/water/soup and repeat until the mixture is gone. They’ll sort of float to the top and then move out towards the sides as they cook. Let them cook in the boiling liquid for 20-30 minutes. If you’re not using them in soup right away, take them out of the liquid and set aside. Add them back into your soup about 10-15 minutes before serving and let them heat through.
*I apologize for the photos- it seems that when I am cooking this many dishes for this many people, I don’t always remember the final “finished” photo! So sorry!