So, I lied before when I talked about relying on a matzo ball mix. No packaged matzo balls for moi this year. I decided to stop wimping out and try making my own, flying by the seat of my Lutheran preacher’s kid shiksa goddess pants.
Since I never really follow any recipe fully, preferring to riff on most recipes and add my own flair, I decided to consult epicurious.com to get some ideas for the foundation of my matzo balls. They offered some interesting new-fangled options—with turmeric and curry, tri-color (think Italian flag), herbed and traditional—plain with a bit of onion. The whole idea of a curried or spinach matzo ball turned me off—who am I to mess with thousands of years of tradition? I’m definitely going for tradition—lest I live up to the more nasty connotations that already go with being a shiksa.
Already knowing that I was going to use dill (see Ode to the Matzo Ball blog), onion and parsley, I really just needed to know what else should go into the recipe—particularly how many eggs would make sense and how much matzo meal. Lots of recipes called for schmaltz, or chicken fat. I tend not to be too into any kind of animal fat, so I knew I’d opt for vegetable oil and maybe add some chicken broth for flavoring. What really surprised me was the suggestion in many of the recipes to use seltzer or “seltzah” as they say in New York and Boston. What an ingenious idea—this has got to be one of those secret ingredient-type things that gets passed down from generation to generation that I miss out on for not being Jewish. Seltzer as an additive was a must—it’s got to encourage some nice fluffy matzo.
I trekked down to Whole Foods to pick up the ingredients I wanted, including the must-have fresh dill, chives for my broth, and the “seltzah.” Studying the variety of matzo options, I really had no idea whether I should get meal or farfel or regular crackers. Standing in front of the Passover display shaking a can of farfel, it sounded like a decent option, but that was my first mistake (der, shiksa girl!). When I tore back the silver freshness seal on the can at home, it contained bite size pieces of matzo. Fearing these would make for some pretty chunky dumplings (even though I was going to let them soak up the egg and seltzah all afternoon) I decided I needed to grind them down further in the blender. Should have gotten the meal…
Here’s how I made the matzo ball mix: grated about 1 ½ teaspoons of onion and mixed it with about 1 tablespoon fresh parsley and 1 ½ teaspoon of fresh, chopped dill. Beat 4 eggs and added 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Some of the recipes I looked at called for chicken broth, so I decided I wanted a little chicken flavor with my seltzah. I like Penzey’s chicken broth base, so I melted about ½ teaspoon of it in a couple of tablespoons of water in the microwave, then added it to ¼ cup of seltzah—I had to let that sit a bit so that that hot water wouldn’t scramble the eggs. After cooling it, I added the herbs and seltzah to the eggs, added a couple shakes of white pepper and about 1 teaspoon salt and just over a cup of the matzo farfel, which I ground in the blender. I actually almost forgot the oil—I ended up adding it last, but whatever. Then I covered the mixture with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for most of the day.
About 15 minutes before you want to have your soup, take the congealed mazto mix out of the fridge, oil up your hands with some vegetable oil so the mixture won’t stick and form 1.5-inch balls and place on a plate or cookie sheet covered in wax paper. Place the balls, one by one, in boiling broth and wait for them to float – voila – they’re done! When it comes to dumplings, floaters are better than sinkers.
I must say, they actually turned out pretty well—they possibly could have used even more onion and dill, but for a first-timer and card-carrying shiksa not too shabby! The seltzah is a must—it does make them lighter and fluffier and keeps them from turning into a dense eggy cracker ball—blecch. Success! These matzo balls are not be passed over (ok, that was a bad religious pun, but they were that good)!