I ended up learning quite a lot while making this matzo ball soup. I butchered my first chicken, made my first stock from scratch, and determined the best way to make fluffy matzo balls.
I don’t expect you to do all of that just to make a good matzo ball soup – there are plenty of shortcuts. I will briefly detail what I did because butchering a chicken is satisfying, and making your own stock requires time, not effort.
If you are going to make stock for this soup, do it at least one day before cooking the soup. If not, scroll down to the shortcut.
Chicken stock ingredients:
- 1 young chicken, about 5 pounds
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1 inch-long segments
- 2 celery stalks, chopped into 1 inch-long segments
- 1 medium onion, cut into eighths
- A few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
Step 2. Butcher the chicken. I watched this Mark Bittman demonstration video, followed exactly what he said, and didn’t have any trouble. I added all the bones to the pot, including the whole legs. I saved the two breasts and deboned the thighs and saved those, too.
Step 3. Add 16 cups of water, plus a teaspoon of salt. Bring everything to a boil (this will take at least 15 minutes), then skim what floats to the surface. Turn the heat down very low and cook as long as you can stand it. I cooked my stock for six hours, but make sure to cook for at least three. Every hour or so give the pot a good stir, and break up the chicken when it starts to fall off the bone.
Step 4. Let the stock cool for an hour or so, then strain it. When you get near the bottom of the pot, fish out and discard the big bones. Then put the chicken and vegetables in your strainer and squeeze out all of the possible liquid. My soup ladle worked perfectly for this. When all of the liquid is pressed out, discard the chicken and vegetables. Chill the stock overnight.
Shortcut: Just use store-bought chicken stock! This is a no-brainer of course, and what I usually do. I wondered what the best stock was, and Serious Eats tested a bunch and had an answer for me: Swanson’s Chicken Cooking Stock.
Now that I’ve made my own stock once, will I do it again? Probably, but only on special occasions. Now that I’ve butchered my own chicken, will I do it again? Probably, when I’m making chicken stock! It’s also a good way to save money – you get to be the butcher. Now, on to the soup …
Matzo ball soup ingredients:
- 8 cups chicken stock (either store-bought or homemade)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 3 celery stalks, chopped 1/2 cm thick
- 3 large carrots, chopped 1/2 cm thick
- 2 parsnips, chopped 1/2 cm thick (Parsnips are the secret to any chicken/vegetable soup like this. They are related to carrots and have a similar flavor.)
- A few sprigs flat-leaf parsley, minced
- Two chicken breasts and two chicken thighs, or some combination (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or schmaltz (schmaltz is the rendered chicken fat that will rise to the top of homemade stock and congeal when you put it in the fridge)
- 16 matzo balls (recipe follows)
Step 2. Add the stock and cook until it comes to a boil, then reduce and simmer. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
Step 3. Add the whole breasts and thighs to the simmering stock and cook for 20 minutes.
Step 4. While the chicken is cooking, make the matzo balls.
Matzo ball ingredients:
- 1 cup plain matzo meal (Pre-packaged boxes often include extra spices. Check the ingredient list to make sure the meal is plain.)
- 4 eggs, separated
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or schmaltz (this is when it pays to make your own stock – the schmaltz really flavors the matzo balls well)
To make the matzo balls, first whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Mix the dry ingredients together – matzo meal, salt, pepper, baking soda. Break up the egg yolks and gently add them to the whites, along with the oil or melted schmaltz. Then fold in the dry ingredients.
Serve with a garnish of flat-leaf parsley. This recipe serves four for dinner.
I know this is a heartier soup than matzo ball soup sometimes is (which is traditionally just served with carrots), but I wanted this to be a filling soup.
It was satisfying to make a soup with great depth of flavor just from one chicken and some vegetables – no additional seasoning except a little salt and pepper. Although this recipe looks involved and intimidating, if you don’t make your own stock the total elapsed preparation and cooking time is just over 1 hour.