This past Tuesday, I hosted my 5th annual Passover “Seder”. Seder in quotes because it’s not actually a Seder. We don’t read from the Haggadah (the book that tells the story of Passover), I don’t have a Seder plate, and I don’t serve a full meal. Heck, we don’t even sit at a table. Instead, it’s actually just matzo ball soup! But for 14 of my dearest non-Jewish friends, it’s as close to a Seder as most of them will get!
Since the matzo ball soup is the star of my “Seder”, it has to be the real deal. Being the good Jewish woman that I am, I make the chicken broth from scratch every year. Yep – chicken carcass and all! The recipe comes from my Mom’s dear friend Cindy, who makes the BEST matzo ball soup (I just had it on Friday, and it did not disappoint). Making matzo ball soup from scratch is not for the faint of heart. It’s not exactly difficult. It’s just – a process.
For those of you who are interested, here is the basic rundown. It starts with a chicken. In past years, I’ve used a 4-5 pound whole chicken. This year, I used chicken thighs, based on the butcher’s recommendation (fattier than roasting chickens). The fat is where all the flavor lies, so it’s important to use as fatty a chicken as you can find. The chicken simmers on the stove for hours with lots of veggies and S&P. After many hours, it’s strained and the remaining chicken (mostly bones) and veggies are discarded – my least favorite part. Refrigerate overnight, remove the layer of fat from the top (save for matzo balls), strain again, and reheat. At this point, it might seem more like chicken water than broth. Add in fresh carrots and celery, shredded roasted chicken if desired, and more seasonings – lots more S&P, parsley, chicken bouillon, and, if you’re semi-homemade like me, a box of store-bought chicken broth. Sue me. Taste a lot until you’ve decided it remotely resembles normal chicken broth.
And that’s just for the broth…we haven’t even gotten to the matzo balls! So, yes – it’s a process. You feel me? Just like the broth, matzo balls aren’t difficult to make, but they are a tad labor intensive. They start with matzo ball mix from a box (even Cindy does that, so it’s allowed), add egg and oil (in my case – chicken fat!), mix, and chill. Kindly ask your boyfriend to roll the “dough” into 1-inch balls (25 of them…he’s a good man), and drop the raw matzo balls into boiling water (don’t overcrowd – boil in batches if making lots like I did). Cover tightly, reduce to simmer, and wait for the matzo balls to puff up into fluffy goodness. The box says 20 minutes, but that’s a lie…mine needed more like 25 minutes to fully cook through. I use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pot and place on paper towels – this lets some of the excess liquid escape so the matzo balls will be fluffy. After a few minutes, add them to the soup.
In addition to the chicken matzo ball soup, I also serve a green salad, and of course, lots of matzo and butter! And my dear Catholic friend Jackie always makes the haroset – an apple & walnut “salad” that symbolizes the mortar that the Jews used to make bricks when they were slaves in Egypt (see, you learn something new every day). She’s such a pro, she doesn’t even use a recipe anymore – and you know what, it’s pretty authentic! And don’t forget the wine…per Seder tradition, the meal is washed down with lots of red wine, even on a Tuesday.
The Passover “Seder” always takes place in my living room, all 14 of us sprawled around the furniture, some on the floor. My friends raved about the soup this year – “it’s more peppery than normal. really good!”. Once again, Wyatt, acting as my sous chef, came in at the ninth inning and saved the day. And while everyone enjoyed their matzo balls, the conversation found its way to the same topic it always does….Susan. More specifically, Susan’s weight. Every single year, my poor baby gets made fun of incessantly for having a few extra pounds on her furry frame. Johnny is notorious for teasing her the most:
The night ended the way all dinner parties end – with a goodie bowl of dermatological samples! EB (Elizabeth) is a dermatology resident at OSU, and gets loads of free samples – awesome samples! Apparently this perk is being taken away soon, so EB took advantage and brought over a bunch of goodies for us each to take home. And as a normal 30 year-old-woman would do, I stocked up on acne face wash and under eye cream. #30goingon15
Thanks, friends, as always, for joining. It’s Tradition!
awesome blog, schweetie! I think next time I will show up unannounced (well, it is announced right now) and do a formal seder for everyone – heck, you need to go through it once every half-dozen years or so to EARN that matzah (not matzo) ball soup!
Glad you’ve mastered this most critical of life skills! Next year I’m showing up as well.
From one matzah (thanks Arnon) ball soup maker to another…bravo. So glad I can pass this tradition (that I learned late in life) on to you!
Matzo, matzah, either way, it sounds so good.