You can keep your pumpkin spice and apple cider and Halloween treats. Autumn for me is all about matzo ball soup. With the Jewish holy days upon us, not to mention flu season, I am all in on matzo balls, and whether you are a member of the tribe hosting family holiday dinners or just a regular person who appreciates the comfort of Jewish penicillin in cool weather, I am here to get your matzo ball game on point.
If you have a recipe you love, these tips and tricks will up your game a little bit. And if you have never made a matzo ball in your life, this will show you how! They are super easy, once you get the hang of them, and since they freeze well, if you aren’t entertaining, you can make a batch and have a stash on hand all fall and winter long.
Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated
But no matter what recipe you are using, there are some things that might have been left out of the methodology that can assist you in your pursuit of the greatest matzo balls ever.
All matzo meal is essentially the same, so don’t get hung up on it. Just be sure to get matzo meal and not matzo ball mix if you can. Try and source from a store that is likely to have reasonably high turnover, because the only bad matzo meal is stale matzo meal.
I use rendered chicken fat which I can get at my local butcher. You can also use neutral vegetable oil like canola. Chicken fat is better in my opinion, but not essential. I have been known to make them with duck fat, which is also amazing if non-traditional. Chicken fat can be stored in the freezer, so if you do find some, grab a couple of tubs for future balls.
A lot of recipes call for either broth or water as the liquid. I use seltzer, the fizzier the better. Currently Topo Chico is my fizz of choice. If you have a Soda Stream, make your own, as fizzy as you can. The bubbles give extra lift and make your dumplings super fluffy. I have not tried carbonating chicken stock with the Soda Stream, but if you do, let me know how it goes.
Watch: How To Make Chicken Stock
My grandmother always put white pepper, nutmeg and onion powder in hers, so I do the same. I prefer my dill in the soup and not the ball, ditto parsley, but you do you. I’ve heard of versions with everything from cumin to coriander to ginger, so whatever you love, experiment. But go slow, these are a delicate thing and big flavors overwhelm easily. Start with a pinch and go up from there if you need to. You can always cook off one little test ball to taste for seasoning and adjust the batter if needed.
Most recipes call for beaten eggs. I separate the eggs and whip the whites and fold them into the batter after, which I think makes for ethereally light balls. If you prefer a little denser result, don’t do this step. I find it worth it.
Most recipes say chill for half an hour to an hour. I chill for a minimum of two and up to four. I find this really allows the meal to fully hydrate and helps with forming.
Form the balls
Pro-tip: take a shallow glass or porcelain baking dish and place a taut piece of plastic wrap on top, making it as tight as possible, like a little trampoline. Spritz it with cooking spray. Then when you form your balls you can place them on the plastic wrap and they won’t get flat on the bottom. I use a small spring-handled cookie scooper to portion and then roll between my greased palms to make smooth balls.
If you want a craggy more rustic ball, you can just scoop right onto the plastic. Return the balls to the fridge while you prep the water to keep them cold. You can make them as small or large as you want, but assume they will minimum double in size, so you might want to err on the side of smaller. You can always serve three in a bowl instead of two if the end result seems too small.
Cook the balls
You want to cook matzo balls in gently simmering salted water. Use a large wide pot (or two) with tight fitting lid. Bring the water to a boil, salt well, it should taste pleasantly salty, like pasta water. Add the matzo balls to the water, being sure to place them in different areas of the pot so that they don’t stick together.
The chilled balls will bring the temperature of the water down and reduce the boil to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low or simmer and cover the pot. Don’t let the water boil hard, or the delicate dumplings will break apart. Cook until a tester ball when cut in half is fully tender and there is no dark section in the center. Depending on how large you make your balls, this could be as few as 20 minutes for mini ones, and as long as 45 for big ones. Remove with a slotted spoon to a storage container and let cool, covered, for twenty minutes.
If you are serving within three days, store the balls in enough of the cooking brine to cover in the fridge. If you want to freeze, place the balls in a single layer, not touching, on a parchment-lined sheet pan and freeze uncovered until frozen solid, about 2 hours. Then you can store the frozen balls in a ziptop bag in the freezer until you want to use. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
Reheat the matzo balls in their brine in a slow cooker set on high for two hours, or in a pot set on simmer, until they are fully warmed through. Do not reheat in your soup, as it will make it cloudy. If you are reheating frozen balls, create a new salted water brine to reheat them in.
I serve two to three balls in a bowl of chicken soup with carrots and a sprinkle of dill or parsley or both. But they are equally at home in a vegetable soup or beef broth.
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