Tonight is the first Seder of Passover, and I must say, it feels weird. Like, really weird. The whole world is on lockdown. For many of us, this is the first Seder we are ever "hosting" or spending without our family. The first time that we are left to our own devices when it comes to making matzo balls or chopped liver or brisket. It's certainly the case for me, because despite how much I cook, these dishes are always made by grandmother. The Seder is always hosted my aunt, who knows how to put on a show. Elaborate flower decorations, tchotchkes to represent the seven plagues, 5-courses, at least. 3 varieties of kosher wine and laughter go around and around the table.
I'm not used to a table for two, and I'm trying to mentally tell myself that this too shall pass (soon, I hope) and before we know it, things will be better. The sun will shine again and we will be free to come and go as we please. One day soon, we'll be able to hug our loved ones closely and tightly. To shake hands with a stranger and hold a friend's new baby. We will be free to put on big dinners and have picnics at the park. Passover is a tale about becoming free, and in this age of coronavirus, I can't help but see the correlation between us and our ancestors.
When I made these matzo balls, I remembered that food is the ultimate connector and memory jogger. I ate these matzo balls alone, in my kitchen, but I was instantly brought back to my grandma's house as the rich scent of chicken broth and dill wafted through my nose. I was reminded of her kugels and livers and fancy china on the makeshift-extended-table for our small group of 25. I was reminded of my family and for a few minutes I was able to forget about the current state of affairs, which is no small feat these days.
So I'll end this note by saying that if you're celebrating tonight, I wish you a happy and healthy Seder, and redemption from anything in this world that is holding you back. Now let's talk matzo balls!
Where does this recipe come from?
These are the basic ratios on the back of the Streit's matzo meal box with a few additions recommended to me by NYC-pastry chef, Zoe Kanan. Zoe also whips 2 of her egg whites, which I don't do because I'm too lazy, but it sounds like an incredible tip for fluffier matzo balls!
What type of matzo do you use?
Most kinds will work here, but I don't recommend schmura or the gluten-free kind. Regular, egg, low-sodium, etc will all work fine here.
When you say matzo meal, is that the box mix?
Please make sure you buy plain matzo meal (I buy Streit's) not the matzo ball box mix, which already has lots of seasoning and other stuff added to it.
Do I Need to add seltzer?
I have no idea if it truly works or not but bubbe always uses seltzer so I do too. However, I made these with water several times and couldn't reallytell a difference, tbh!
WHY DO YOU ADD GRATED ONION?
I got this recipe from Zoe Kanan, a NYC pastry-chef and I loved her addition of grated onion, which is a classic Ashkenazi addition to all sorts of things. My grandma always adds grated onion to meatball filling. She says it adds moisture. Sounds about right!
WHY DO you add baking soda?
As Zoe said, to offset the onion addition and because it helps the matzo balls puff up!
How much salt do you add?
I add a small pinch of salt (1/4 tsp-ish) to the mixture itself, but find the key to flavorful matzo balls is to cook them in heavily salted water, as if you're cooking pasta.
WHAT KIND OF OIL SHOULD I USE?
In an ideal world, you're using schmaltz, aka chicken fat. If you can't find schmaltz (sometimes the butcher will have it available for purchase) and don't feel like making it, you can use oil instead. Olive oil will add a sn herbal flavor to the balls (my preference) whereas something neutral will just stay in the background. It's only 1/4 cup so just use what you have on hand!
Why do you add fresh herbs directly into the mix?
Adding 1/4 cup of fresh chopped herbs to matzo balls is, in my humble opinion, the real secret. It turns them from beige mush into something fresher, brighter, more flavorful. Dill is classic, I really wouldn't skip it. A second herb friend is always nice. Parsley or chives, or cilantro if you're feeling wild.
WHY DO YOU COOK YOUR MATZO BALLS IN WATER INSTEAD OF BROTH?
Several reasons: 1) My chicken broth takes hours to make, so I hate having matzo balls absorb all that liquid gold. I prefer drinking it and enjoying it. 2) I compare matzo balls to pasta in my head, which I would never cook in broth. If you heavily salt your water and properly season your matzo mixture, it will be flavorful! Trust! 3) The matzo balls make the soup cloudy, which visually is a no-no for me.
How do you make the chicken soup you serve the matzo balls in?
While I work on writing a detailed blog post about my classic chicken soup, you can find all of the details on my Instagram, in the "highlights" section. Just scroll until you see "chicken broth."
How long do you cook the matzo balls?
At least 30 minutes, usually closer to 35-40. The balls should have doubled in size, be pale, floating, and look very bouyant. When you test one, your spoon should slide through easily without much resistance. It should taste springy, not dense!
HOW LONG WILL THESE LAST IN THE FRIDGE?
A few days, and you can freeze whatever you don't get to, although let's be honest, you'll be finishing these in no time.Print
- 1 cup matzo meal
- 4 eggs
- 1/8 cup fresh chopped parsley
- 1/8 cup fresh chopped dill
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt (plus more for boiling water)
- 1/4 cup seltzer or water
- 1/4 cup schmaltz or oil
- 1/2 sweet onion (finely grated )
- Add all of your ingredients except matzo meal into a large bowl. Whisk.
- Add matzo meal, then mix to combine. Taste to see if the mixture needs more salt, but remember you'll be boiling the matzo balls in very salty water so don't overdo it.
- Let the matzo meal rest in the fridge for an hour or two until it thickens and comes together (it will be very thick!)
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a rolling boil.
- While the water comes to a boil, use an ice cream scoop to take out even size balls (I like smaller ones that are a little less than 1/4 cup of mixture each). Roll the balls into nice circles and prepare them all to go into the pot. You can use a little water on your hands in between rolling balls to prevent sticking. Also, they should all go into the water at roughly the same time, so don't stand over the pot rolling balls.
- Once the balls are in, turn the heat down to a simmer and cover. Simmer the matzo balls for 35-40 minutes, flipping midway. You must cook the matzo balls covered, so the top half steams while the bottom half simmers.
- The balls will be done when they have doubled in size and look very full. Take on out after about 30-35 minutes to test. Your spoon should slide through the matzo ball easily and it should taste light, herby, and delightful!
- Store your matzo balls separately, just adding to soup when serving. This way, they don't get bloated or too soft. You can store matzoh balls in the fridge for a few days or freeze them for later use.
- Category: Soup
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Jewish
Keywords: jewish cooking, jewish recipes, ashkenazi recipes, passover, pesach, matzo, matza, matzah, matzoh, matzo ball recipe, matzo ball soup recipe, matzo balls from scratch