Photograph by Patrick Heagney
Jennifer Levison, owner of Souper Jenny and Cafe Jonah—who was born in Atlanta, grew up in Los Angeles, and moved back to Georgia as an adult—is much more practiced at rolling matzo balls than cutting biscuits. Matzo is unleavened bread eaten throughout the Jewish Passover holidays, which begin this year on the evening of March 25. Levison and her sister-in-law Sharon take charge of an annual Passover Seder feast for about twenty-five kin. It includes a soothing chicken soup with matzo balls (made from ground matzo meal) from a simple recipe passed down for generations. Matzo ball soup appears at other times, though, especially whenever a loved one is ailing. “Many years ago my brother Danny came down with spinal meningitis, and Sharon fixed him a batch of matzo ball soup,” says Levison. “He made a miraculous recovery, and we’ve been calling it the magical soup ever since.” Matzo balls are easy to make, but as with biscuits, take care not to overhandle the mixture or it can become leaden.
1 large (5 1/2- to 6-pound) chicken, giblets removed
2 onions, peeled and quartered
3 large carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks with leaves, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 large sweet onion, peeled and chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons chicken fat, skimmed from the top of the chicken stock
1 cup matzo meal (found easily in grocery stores during Passover)
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1. Make the stock: In a large pot, combine the chicken, onions, carrots, celery, parsley, salt, and peppercorns. Cover with four quarts of water, three inches above the ingredients. Bring to a boil, skim off the foam that rises to the top, and then lower the heat and simmer for two hours. Strain the soup, removing the skin and bones from the meat and shredding the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Cover and refrigerate chicken; discard the vegetables, chicken skin, and bones. Let broth cool and refrigerate overnight.
2. Make the soup: Remove the stock from the refrigerator and skim off the congealed fat from the surface into a small bowl; reserve for matzo balls. Put the stock in a pot and add remaining onion, carrots, and celery. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 45 minutes.
3. Make the matzo balls: While soup is cooking, whisk the eggs and fat together in a medium bowl until well blended. Gently mix in the matzo meal. Blend in hot water. Refrigerate this mix for at least one hour. Wet hands and gently roll matzo into walnut-sized balls. Add reserved chicken to the simmering broth and then gently drop in the matzo balls. Cover for 30 minutes without lifting the lid. Add chopped fresh parsley just before serving.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
This article originally appeared in our March 2013 issue.