Pesach—Passover—is one of my favorite Jewish holidays. Yeah, you get presents at Hanukah and you get to dress up and be silly for Purim. But Passover? It says family, celebration, food.
This year, sadly, my Passover did not say family to me. Because I’m saving my vacation days and my money for an upcoming trip to Israel this summer, I couldn’t go home to Virginia or to family in North Carolina this year. Sad, I know! I did usher in the Passover holiday with Sunday brunch with friends (Courtney made a wonderful matzah brei), but it’s not the same as Passover seder. This is also the first year I’ve ever been wholly responsible for my own care and feeding during Passover. I almost didn’t buy matzah! Imagine that.
I was inspired by my nostalgia for traditional Passover foods, so I decided to finally some of my store of frozen chicken stock and make chicken soup and matzah balls. I often forget that I love matzah balls and I should really look into making them all year round, instead of just during the Passover season. They are delicious! The recipe I followed was on the back of the matzah meal box, but there are hundreds of variations. Once I made them with dill mixed in—that was exceptional. The most important factors—and I believe most matzah ball makers will agree—are the salt and the density. No matzah ball, in my opinion, is worth the name if it doesn’t have that saltiness in each bite. Not overly salty, mind you, but definitely detectable.
Matzah ball density is a debate that has gone down through the ages, for sure. I prefer ‘sinkers’—matzah balls so dense that they sink right to the bottom of the soup bowl and require some effort to break apart. Others—and I know many!—prefer them to be light and fluffy, like little clouds of matzah meal floating in their soup. The deciding factor is cooking time. The less time you simmer the matzah balls in water, the denser they will be. The longer, the lighter. My matzah balls were dense, dense, dense. Almost brick-like. I loved them.
And thank goodness that matzah balls are great by themselves because my chicken soup? I did not love it so much. Or at all. I apparently didn’t have enough patience for soup making on Sunday. I couldn’t find a recipe that pleased me, so I decided to wing it on my own. That’s never a good idea for me—I’m definitely a recipe driven cook. I had both chicken stock in the freezer and chicken broth in my pantry, so I put both in. I also added an onion, a few crushed cloves of garlic for the fun of it, and threw in a whole array of spices (parsley flakes, some poultry seasoning, and things that I simply can’t remember) and set the whole mess on the stove to simmer. I’m not entirely sure what went wrong, but I’ll try to figure it out. In the first place, I started out with too little liquid—I should have definitely started with more stock. I believe I didn’t simmer it for long enough. I’m really not sure. I would like to try again, but we’ll see where my taste buds take me in the future.
(For a successful soup read, go read about spinach and green garlic soup at Orangette)