Matzo Ball Trade Secrets

Famous Eateries Share Tips, Recipes for the Chicken Soup Staple

By Devra Ferst

Published March 26, 2010.
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If matzo is the bread of affliction, certainly the rock-hard matzo balls that grace seder tables everywhere are a modern affliction for many seder-goers. Making light and flavorful matzo balls often eludes even talented cooks. Perfect execution comes from the right combination of ingredients and techniques. Here, three of the most sought-after matzo ball makers in New York — Katz’s Deli, 2nd Avenue Deli and Zabar’s — offer up their wisdom and recipes for light and delicious matzo balls.

Cooking Tips

Katz’s Delicatessen, Alan Dell, Co-owner “The secret to a great matzo ball is a combination of things. Some people say seltzer, but it’s really getting the right amount of oil to get the fluffiness. If you have the right amount of oil and matzo meal, you’ll get fluffy matzo balls.”

2nd Avenue Deli, Jack Lebewohl, father of current owners “If you follow the recipe that’ll do the trick. It’s the right mix of everything. And a little bit of baking powder seems to work. Nice and fluffy. And, as my brother used to say ‘A matzo ball without shmaltz is an assimilated matzo ball.’”

Zabar’s, Andrea Watman, Zabar’s catering manager “There is a secret ingredient to light matzo balls — you have to add seltzer. The truth of the matter is: You have to cook the matzo balls long enough, past when they float to the top. If you don’t, the center stays hard and that weighs them down. So taste them, cook them long enough to cook all the way through, and use seltzer.”


Recipes

Katz’s Deli Matzo Balls
Courtesy of Ken Kohn, Executive Chef

Makes Approximately 12 matzo balls

4 eggs
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups cold chicken stock
1 cup matzo meal
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

  1. Beat eggs with oil in large bowl, mix in the stock, then incorporate the other ingredients till well blended.

  2. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, gently form matzo balls to about 1-inch diameter with wet hands. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Cut one open to make sure they are cooked through.


2nd Avenue Deli Matzo Balls Reprinted with permission from “The 2nd Avenue Deli Cookbook”

Makes 12 to 14

1 tablespoon salt
4 large eggs
1/3 cup schmaltz
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/3 cup matzo meal

  1. Fill a large, wide stockpot three-quarters full of water, add tablespoon of salt, and bring to a rapid boil.

  2. While water is boiling, crack eggs into a large bowl and beat thoroughly. Beat in schmaltz, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and baking powder. Slowly fold in matzo meal, mixing vigorously until completely blended. Refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes.

  3. Wet hands, and folding the mixture in your palms, shape perfect balls about 1 1/4 inches in diameter (they will double in size when cooked).

  4. Gently place the matzo balls in the boiling water, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place one or two in each bowl of soup. Serve immediately.


Zabar’s Matzo Balls Courtesy of Andrea Watman

Should make 12 matzo balls

4 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup old fashion seltzer
1 cup matzo meal
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

  1. In a medium bowl whisk the eggs, add oil, salt, pepper and matzo meal then and only then stir in seltzer. Do not over mix.

  2. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours (can be made the night before).

  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

  4. Make sure to wet your hands with cold water and form the balls by rolling the mixture in your hand.

  5. Drop into boiling water, reduce heat and cook for approx. 20-30 minutes. The balls will double in size and begin to float to the top. Remove when done and add to your soup.

  • Note: Some people add finely chopped parsley for color or another holiday bitter herb, still others add finely minced onions for a bit of added flavor — but Grandma Bertha was a purest no additions.

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