You really just need one, dependable matzah ball soup recipe in your life, and this is it. Tried, true, trusty — and really, really good. Is the broth golden-hued and clear, but rich in chicken-y flavor? Check. Can you taste the fresh carrots, celery and onion? Check. Does spring, in the form of fresh bright dill, brighten and sharpen the flavor? Yep. Are the balls both light and substantial, embodying the idea of paradox that is at the center of so much of Jewish life and thought? Of course.
Making the soup involves one extra step — broiling or searing the chicken to achieve an extra depth of flavor. That will add 10-20 minutes of joy to your day — because cooking chicken soup for family, friends or just yourself is always a joy.
You can make this with me or just watch me make it on Thursday, March 25 from 4:30-5:30 p.m. PDT in a workshop sponsored by Community Kitchens and The Forward. The proceeds support No Us Without You, which provides support to undocumented workers in the hospitality industry. Sign up here to cook with me!
Rob’s Go-To Chicken Soup
1 whole 4-pound chicken cut into 8 pieces, or 4 pounds chicken wings, backs, necks, and/or legs
3 carrots, 1 peeled , cut 1/2 inch coins
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 parsnip, 1 peeled , sliced in 1/2 inch coins
2 medium onions, cut into quarters
4 cloves garlic, smashed
3 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves
1 small bunch parsley
1 bunch dill
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
(This is a completely optional step but I do think it makes better soup). Brown the chicken. Preheat broiler. Lay chicken pieces out skin side up on a large pan and place under broiler. Broil until they begin to turn brown. Alternatively, heat a bit of oil in a large skillet or the bottom of a heavy stockpot and sear the pieces on both sides. You’re not cooking them; you’re just coloring the skin to deepen the flavor.
Place the chicken pieces into a large stock pot. Pour in any of the juices from the broiling pan. Add 2 carrots, 1 parsnip, celery, onions, garlic, bay leaves, parsley, pepper and salt. And add enough water to cover by about 1 inch.
Over medium high heat, bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the soup gently for about two hours. During this time use a slotted spoon to skim foam off the surface.
This would be a good time to make your matzah balls… Check the recipe below!
Remove the soup from the heat and strain through a mesh strainer. Reserve the solids for another use.
Return the soup to the clean pot. Add remaining 1 carrot and 1 parsnip slices. Simmer until soft, about 20 minutes. Before serving, add the matzah balls and chopped fresh dill. Serves 8-10.
A few notes:
Fresh bay leaves are really better. (If you need some and live in the L.A. area, DM me on Instagram @foodaism and I’ll hook you up for free.)
You can make the soup a few days ahead and freeze. It really is better to make it at least one day ahead, let it cool completely, then refrigerate. The next day, remove the layer of fat at the top with a slotted spoon. Use this chicken fat to roast potatoes, or even eat it on a slice of toast… Don’t throw it away!
You can heat the matzah balls in the soup and leave them there keeping the soup warm for hours… But do not boil!
Add the dill just before serving.
If you want to go through an additional, optional step, after you boil the chicken, you can broil the vegetables for the soup. Toss them with a little oil and put them under the broiler until they just begin to toast. This adds another layer of flavor— but it is completely optional.
The quickest way to make this soup is in an Instant Pot. I add all the ingredients and cover with water, seal and cook on the soup setting or about 45 minutes, Then proceed with recipe.
Rob’s Go-To Matzah Balls
1/4 cup schmaltz (chicken fat) or vegetable oil
1/4 cup chicken stock or water or seltzer
1 cup matzah meal
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill and parsley
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients. Do not over-beat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well-chilled – two hours or more.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Wet your hands. Take a lump the size of a large walnut and using your palms, form into a round shape. Drop into the water, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 40 minutes.
Remove the balls with a slotted spoon. Taste one to make sure they’re cooked through – they probably will be. Serve in hot soup, sprinkled with fresh parsley and dill. Makes about 20 balls.
After the balls are cooked in water, let them rest in the soup. If you re chilling your soup in the refrigerator or freezer, leave them in. If you are reheating soup, leave them in. If your soup is simmering on the stove, leave them in.
Don’t forget to watch me make these or even make them with me by signing up for the Community Kitchen class here.