Happy Hanukkah, everyone! Last night we celebrated the first night with gifties for Our Small Person, and neighbours up for latkes and matzo ball soup – it was lovely.

All I need is an occasion to make latkes and matzo ball soup, to be honest. I was once told (while the teller was laughing at me, no less*) that matzo ball soup and latkes are Passover food, not Hanukkah food. Well, screw her – it’s comfort food, and I’ll cook it any time I want to, thank you very much. But it is a bit of a production to put it together, so I only cook these things on special occasions. What better an occasion than one that involves a holiday and presents,** really?

The last few times I made matzo ball soup, the matzo balls came out firmer than I wanted, so I changed some business up this time, and they came out damned near perfect – so exciting!

The new baby. Isn't she just lovely?!

Light, fluffy, delicious, and I will share the how-to with you, my friends. I owe it all to my new (candy apple red) baby, a present from my mom, the mixer that I’ve always wanted, the Kitchenaid. I should turn forty every year, swear to dog.

Without further ado, the recipe.

Matzo Balls – enough for 6-8 servings of soup

1.5c matzo meal (I like Manischewitz, fwiw)
6 lg eggs, separated
1.5tsp kosher salt
6Tbsp canola oil***
6Tbsp chicken stock
2tsp baking powder (this may or may not make them unacceptable for Passover – ask your rabbi where she stands on it, ‘cos I read all kinds of conflicting views on it. Baking powder is also not mandatory for the recipe, exclusion of it will only make the matzo balls a little firmer.)

1. Beat egg whites in the mixer until fluffy – not stiff, just fluffy, so no peaks. Took me less than three minutes. While that mixes, combine the egg yolks and oil; add when the whites are ready and mix at setting 5 to incorporate.

2. Combine all the dry ingredients in another bowl and mix well. Once the egg yolk mixture is incorporated into the whites, add to it these dry ingredients and the stock.

3. Cover and refrigerate for an hour. About half an hour into the wait, put two wide pots**** of water on the stove – you want them to be boiling when your mixture is done resting in the fridge. You may also want to set your soup up, and put it on the range at this point, as when the balls are done simmering in water, they’ll need to be finished in the soup.

4. With wet hands so that the mix doesn’t stick, form balls roughly 2″ around, and drop them in the water. With this batch, I got 12 balls. I had two pots pretty much the same size, so I put six in each. If you have one pot with a smaller circumference than the other, plan accordingly. It’s important that you don’t crowd them.

5. Bring back to a boil, and lower the heat. Simmer, covered, for 40 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the matzo balls to the soup, and simmer for 15 minutes to finish.

Chicken Soup for Matzo Balls – serves 6-8

4 32-ox boxes of low sodium chicken broth
6 carrots, peeled and quartered
6 stalks of celery, quartered
5 parsnips, peeled and quartered
10-12 boiling onions, outer skins removed
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
5-10 peppercorns, to your taste
salt to taste

Combine all items in a large stock pot and simmer until the root vegetables are fork tender.  Finish the matzo balls in the soup for the last 15 minutes. That’s it – so easy!

I would totally give you the recipe for my latkes, but I wing the amounts. What I can tell you is that I use a bag of frozen Ore Ida shredded hashbrowns (completely defrosted)***** in order to not have to shred potatoes with a box grater. Usually one large onion goes in, salt, black pepper, two eggs, and enough matzo meal to make it all stick together. Then, and this is key, let it sit for about 30 minutes before you shape it into patties and fry them (otherwise they’ll fall apart in the oil). After frying, I drain them on paper towels, before transferring them to a cookie sheet in the oven, set to 300. Keeping them in the oven generally keeps them from getting soggy (not to mention, cold) while the rest of the batch fries. Serve as you like, with applesauce, sour cream, or just plain.

***

*You see, she’s a better Jew than I am. Because she’s observant, while I’m secular. And she’s in competition with me. Which I think is the stupidest thing ever and I have a hard time taking her seriously – until she hurts my feelings. But that’s probably a whole post all of its own.
**And due to my choice of wrapping paper this year, a whole lot of festive glitter. Holy crap, this house is SPARKLY.
***I know olive oil is heart healthy and everything, but seriously, it makes the matzo balls taste funny.
****Ok, so this is what I know – Matzo balls need to expand in order to get fluffy. And they float, and will line themselves up in a neat ring around the top of your pot, no matter how much coaxing you do to try and get one to sit in the middle. So in order to get fluffy matzo balls, you need to give them room, which means wide pots.
*****Heresy? Oh, no no no – CONVENIENCE and SIMPLICITY. Look, I know your grandmother told you different – hell, my grandmother told me different, but there does not in fact need to be blood in the latkes for it to be a holiday. For what it’s worth, when I asked my grandmother, upon the first Thanksgiving I was cooking, how to pick a turkey, her answer was, “Make sure you pick one that’s lively. Sluggish birds taste bitter.” Ok, so maybe that blood-in-the-food-now-it’s-holiday business was just my grandmother. Any way, to hell with that box grater – I like my knuckles way to much to fool around with that.

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