There’s a science to the perfect matzo ball soup. Here’s how to master the key components, from the pillowy-light balls to that rich, golden, rejuvenating chicken broth.
Every Great Ball Begins with Schmaltz
If you’ve never cooked with chicken fat, you’re in for a treat. Schmaltz lends an incomparable flavor and luxurious texture to matzo balls—butter and vegetable oil can’t compare. And don’t worry about wasting any extra; you can use schmaltz in plenty of other dishes, too. There’s a reason schmaltz belongs in your matzo balls and your fridge: Most brands render theirs with onion, lending an irresistible essence to whatever you pair it with. Use it to roast potatoes or to give a rich flavor to sautéed greens.
Sink or Swim
Buoyancy is a hot-button issue when it comes to matzo balls. Some people like theirs to float; others prefer sinkers. While ours do sink, they’re far from leaden. Their lightness doesn’t come from leaveners like baking powder or egg whites, though; it’s because we rest the matzo mixture in the fridge for at least two hours, where it hydrates and expands.
How We Roll
Ask us, and the perfectly sized sphere is somewhere between a golf ball and a tennis ball. Also: Be gentle when shaping your matzo balls. Heavy hands will make them compact and overly dense. “Leavening ingredients won’t matter if you don’t handle your matzo balls properly. Pack them tight and you’re packing more mass into volume, thereby increasing density and making them heavy,”says Larissa Zhou, food scientist for Modernist Cuisine.
SEE MORE: 5 Things to Do With Leftover Matzoh
Matzo balls should never be poached in chicken broth. (They’ll release starch and turn an otherwise clear broth cloudy.) The proper method: Poach them in a separate, very salty pot of just-simmering water. Think of your matzo balls like sponges; cook them in under-seasoned water and they’ll turn out bland.
MATZO BALL SOUP
There’s an entire chicken in this soup, and then some. Not a mistake. You’ll pull out the breast early on and use the white meat to garnish the finished bowls, but everything else stays and simmers for hours, enriching the stock with concentrated flavor and lip-smacking body.
- 1 4–5-lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 pound chicken wings, necks, and/or backs
- 2 large yellow onions, unpeeled, quartered
- 6 celery stalks, cut into 1” pieces
- 4 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1” pieces
- 1 large parsnip, peeled, cut into 1” pieces
- 1 large shallot, quartered
- 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
- 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
Matzo Ball Mixture:
- 3 large eggs, beaten to blend
- ¾ cup matzo meal
- ¼ cup schmaltz (chicken fat), melted
- 3 tablespoons club soda
- 1¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 small carrots, peeled, sliced ¼” thick on a diagonal
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill
- Coarsely ground fresh black pepper
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Chicken Stock: Bring all ingredients and 12 cups cold water to a boil in a very large (at least 12-qt.) stockpot. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chicken breasts are cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Transfer breasts to a plate (remaining chicken parts are strictly for stock). Let breasts cool slightly, then remove meat and return bones to stock. Shred meat. Let cool, tightly wrap, and chill.
Continue to simmer stock, skimming surface occasionally, until reduced by one-third, about 2 hours. Strain chicken stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large saucepan (or airtight container, if not using right away); discard solids. You should have about 8 cups.
Matzo Ball Mixture: Mix eggs, matzo mean, schmaltz, club soda, and salt in a medium bowl (mixture will resemble wet sand; it will firm up as it rests). Cover and chill at least 2 hours.
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Assembly: Bring chicken stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Add carrots; season with salt. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender, 5–7 minutes. Remove from heat, add reserved breast meat, and cover. Set soup aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Scoop out 2-tablespoonful portions matzo ball mixture and, using wet hands, gently roll into balls.
Add matzo balls to water and reduce heat so water is at a gentle simmer (too much bouncing around will break them up). Cover pot and cook matzo balls until cooked through and starting to sink, 20–25 minutes.