My once yearly experimentation with trying to perfect a shiksha Matzo ball has been well established previously on this blog. For a person who tends not to fully repeat food-related things exactly more than once, Matzo balls are the one thing I have written about every year during the Passover/Easter season–so it wouldn’t be right not to continue that tradition and skip an entry on this year’s Matzo balls then would it?
After my discovery a couple weeks ago that some authentic schmaltz could be had locally here in Oakland at Beauty’s Bagels without my going to the trouble of rendering it myself, the wheels couldn’t stop spinning. The thought that I could go pickup a half-pint, home-canned jar of chicken fat just wouldn’t leave me alone. I knew I wanted to make my yearly batch of Matzo ball soup, so why not spring for the real chicken fat and see if that would make the Matzo balls even better? A conversation with a friend of mine served only to further convince me that I needed to try the fat method this year. She and her husband are into eating a paleo-based diet. A former vegetarian, she began experimenting with a more meat-based diet as she and her husband discovered that he had a gluten intolerance. She now eats more meat, and he makes a lot of homemade nutrient-rich broths, such as “blood broth,” made from beef marrow to help nourish their own blood and bones. When I mentioned the schmaltz discovery to her, her immediate reaction was “well, a lot of advocates for paleo diets would say that chicken fat is good for you.”
Which was about all the encouragement I needed this year. Now, as I’ve also mentioned before, I am not the biggest fan of different animal fats. I tend to fanatically cut the fat off any cut of meat. You know those little bits of fat that are sometimes left hanging off boneless, skinless chicken breasts (which are pretty fat free to begin with)? I even cut those tiny things off before cooking. And beef fat? Fuhgeddaboutit. Just the thought of yorkshire pudding gives me the heebie jeebies. Beef fat soaked popovers? Blecch… I’ve just never really liked either the taste or texture of fat all that much. It also tends to remind me of horrible British body odor. When I was in college, I spent a year abroad at the University of Nottingham. Every Thursday morning I attended a lecture class on Romantic British Literature. Each week as our class entered the lecture hall, there would be a horrible stench of body odor leftover from someone in the previous lecture class who clearly had never seen the interior of a shower or bathtub and who also clearly ate an extremely beef heavy diet. A lingering odor of beefy sweat is just not what you want to smell ever, let alone at 10 a.m. on a Thursday morning when you’re trying to concentrate on deciphering Wordsworth’s daffodils or Keats’ nightingale.
(As an aside, I will admit that I recently tried the 24-hour pork belly rice bowl at Hawker Fare here in Oakland. This was a big deal for me, and I had to sort of get past some mental blocks about what I was eating to even try it. In addition to not being a fat fan, I also am not the biggest pork fan, with the exception of bacon, of course, because everyone loves bacon. But for some reason the Five-Spiced, 24-hour pork belly sounded good that evening, so I swallowed my mental block and gave it a try, fat and all. And, I have to say, it was quite good!)
Anyway, I schlepped over to Beauty’s last Sunday to pick up a breakfast bagel sandwich and some schmaltz so I could try them in this year’s Matzo balls.
Packed in an 8-oz. Mason jelly jar with a large tag with the word SCHMALTZ handwritten on it, there it was–congealed, white fat. Like last year, I ground some Matzo farfel bits in my blender until they were tiny. Most of the recipes I found online called for 4 eggs per batch of balls – that seemed excessive to me, so I went for three instead. Having gotten on board last year with adding seltzer to the mix for lighter balls, I again used seltzer. For spice, I opted for just salt, pepper, dried parsley and dried, minced onion this year–I went for including dill and chives just in the bouquet garni for the soup broth rather than including either in the Matzo balls, but that would have been good, too.
Here’s this year’s concoction:
1 1/2 c. matzo meal
2-3 eggs beaten
1/4 -1/3 c. schmaltz, melted
1/2 c. seltzer
1 tsp. dried, minced onion
1 tbsp. parsley
Mix ingredients together in mixing bowl. Refrigerate for at least one hour before forming into balls. Drop into soup about 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat. Matzo balls are done when they float.
I have to say, I’m on board with the schmaltz -based balls. It just adds that much more chicken flavor to the whole soup. Of course, I feel like my house has smelled of chicken fat for the past week, but at least it’s no where near as bad a smell as that university lecture hall. These Matzo balls were worth every schmaltzy ounce of fat. I’ve got a new tradition!