Jewish Food

A Klutz’ Guide To Cooking: Making Mom’s Jewish Penicillin (Chicken Soup) For The First Time

When you’re sick and mom isn’t around, it’s time to learn to make soup like she does. Read More

By / February 2, 2012
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It’s finally turned to cold, snowy wintertime and we all need some steamy, hot matzo ball soup. I don’t know about you, but making matzo ball soup has always intimidated me. Both because my mother’s is perfection, and because matzo balls are notoriously fussy. And, oh, that part where I’m not exactly a pro chef. But it’s cold out and I want my soup!

I probably wouldn’t have even attempted matzo ball soup to begin with if my friend (who’s not Jewish, mind you) hadn’t convinced me that she makes it all the time and it really is easy. All the way in sunny San Diego, my non-Jewish friend is making matzo ball soup, so what’s my excuse? She explained how I can skip all the hard stuff and make an abbreviated version, which is not my mother’s soup, so no pressure to live up to it.

The shortcuts: Buy a pre-cooked chicken (most supermarkets sell these, and you should be able to find a kosher one at a specialty food store). And buy chicken broth, rather than making your own.

Ingredients:

Matzo meal (the box will have simple matzo ball instructions and list ingredients including eggs, oil or margarine, salt and pepper)

2 cartons low-sodium chicken broth

2-3 carrots, sliced

2-3 stalks celery, sliced

1 onion, chopped

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Dill or parsley if desired

  1. Make the matzo balls first. This won’t take long, and you’ll refrigerate them for 30 mins- 1 hour.
  2. While the matzo balls are chilling, you can chop up your veggies and pull the chicken off the bone. Your veggies can be chopped to any size you like. I kept things pretty chunky, which meant the carrots took a bit longer to cook.
  3. When the matzo balls are almost chilled, start boiling a big pot of water with 2 tsp. salt.
  4. With WET hands, form the matzo meal mixture into balls, as directed. I tried not to handle them too much, assuming that would lead to overly dense balls. Turns out I was right. Then just drop them into the boiling water.
  5. After the matzo balls have been cooking for a few minutes, spark up the chicken broth. Once it’s boiling, add the veggies and simmer for 15 mins.
  6. Add the chicken to the broth, and if the veggies aren’t tender yet, continue simmering until they are.
  7. After 30 mins, use a slotted spoon to remove the matzo balls from the water, and if the soup is ready, add them (if it’s not, put them in a bowl til the broth is ready).

You’re done! Enjoy your Jewish penicillin, and no one has to know the ingredients weren’t all made from scratch.

What I learned: This wasn’t exactly fast. After work, I’m usually down for a good 30 minute meal, and this took at least twice that. It wasn’t difficult though, or complicated. My suggestion is to pre-cut your veggies and even pre-remove your chicken from the bone, that way everything that goes into the broth is ready to go. You could also make this without the chicken, which would speed things up even more. I made this matzo ball soup on a Sunday and if I make it again on a weekday, it will probably be for Shabbat dinner so that I can take my time.

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