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This Passover, Forget Your Bouillon Cubes

Those who have butchered a whole bird, razoring it into chunks of flesh, fat, bone, skin, and cartilage, know it is no pleasant task (especially without a sharp knife). But not long ago, I butchered both a chicken and a … Read More

By / March 28, 2007
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Those who have butchered a whole bird, razoring it into chunks of flesh, fat, bone, skin, and cartilage, know it is no pleasant task (especially without a sharp knife). But not long ago, I butchered both a chicken and a duck over the course of two days. With Passover looming, I was testing matzah ball soup recipes: first, an old-fashioned chicken version, and then its nouveau French counterpart, a duck consommé.

On holidays, a little extra effort on the culinary front comes standard, but we don’t usually exert it reinventing traditional dinnertime favorites, especially in Jewish kitchens. Jewish holidays aren’t like Thanksgiving, when it seems every other American beelines to the hardware store for a ten-gallon fryer to give this year’s turkey a deep-fat bath. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s snubbed these faddy Thanksgiving Fryer types, but what if their final product is more delicious than the traditional roasted fare?

With that thought in mind, I abandoned traditionalist skepticism to attempt Jewcy’s first Nosh Off. It’s like Jewcy’s version of Iron Chef, except the contest is between two recipes—one a traditional preparation and
the other a reinvented nouveau version of the same dish—prepared, taste-tested, and judged by us. After two days of de-boning, slow-roasting, fast-roasting, rendering, mixing, pan-searing, knife-wielding, and simmering—lots of simmering—in my mom’s kosher kitchen, I had two very different poultry-infused bowls: Chef Sharon Lebewohl’s chicken soup with matzah balls from New York’s famed, late Second Avenue Deli, and Boston Chef Marc Orfaly’s matzah balls in duck consommé.

Producing a truly tasty homemade stock or broth is no small feat. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain smugly admitted in his behind-the-restaurant-scenes Kitchen Confidential that, while studying at the Culinary Institute of America, he’d cheated in stock-making by adding tasty soup-packet powder. His peers were bewildered at the flavor he extracted from mere bones and vegetables. Bouillon cubes offer a similar shortcut, but the real stuff requires the whole bird. Working with any whole animal in the kitchen, from fish to bird, may daunt the neophyte home cook, but the results are well worth it.

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