Tuesday, March 20, 2007

and that's the way the ball bounces ....

with less than two weeks left before the first seder, there is much to do before the night of april 2nd, 2007. every day counts at this point, and for some every minute — there are still ovens and stoves to scour, food to rid the house of before the end of the month, not to mention shopping to be done, guest lists to confirm, and final decisions on what to make for the holiday, especially on the first two nights.

something funny however seems to happen at this time every year. people start to get anxious over what to serve searching through tons of cookbooks, the internet, and magazines and often, in the end, after much racking of the brains, revert back to basics of what has been typically served since time immemorial. part of me thinks there is something comforting sticking with the old standards. i've usually ended up doing one night traditional and one non-traditional to curb, or rather, appease my need to make new things. i can't count how many times i've been at some seder where someone has served non-traditional dishes only to notice the questioning look of "so .... where's the brisket? what do you mean there's no brisket?!" i guess the rule of thumb is "know your crowd" before you get creative.

passover would not be passover without the classic soup addition of matzo balls, otherwise known in yiddish as halkes or knaidlach. while there are undoubtedly as many recipes for these as there are cooks, there are probably equal numbers of cooks with their own secrets as to how to make the perfect matzo ball. much of it comes down to three things:
  • size: i have seen matzo balls at some of our delis taking up the size of the bowl itself, as big as a small grapefruit and in other instances as small as large marbles for a more refined and manageable size.

  • texture: hard or soft is always the issue. i've often heard that if they're hard, they were not made properly. who knows, i like them both ways.

  • taste: that's a personal issue but i tend to go with the "know your crowd" caveat before getting creative and having no one eat them.
in terms of tricks people use to make matzo balls come out perfectly, the common ones are beating the egg whites before adding them or using seltzer or soda water. i've never done it that way and don't need to since i use the following recipe. the other recipes are different in that one is stuffed with onions and baked before adding it to the soup and the other has ground almonds in it. which ever way you try it, i still firmly believe opening the pot before they've finished cooking equals matzo ball death!

i unfortunately can't post pictures until later on for the first two recipes as the kitchen's not ready [yet]! they will be added later. i will add pessah recipes over the next week and a half but, as i said, no pictures — for now you'll have to use your imagination.

before going any further though, a famous little story:
When Marilyn Monroe first visited Arthur Miller's parents for Friday night supper, her ignorance of Jewish food was all too apparent. "Gee, Arthur, these matzo balls [dumplings] are pretty nice," Monroe declared. "But isn't there any other part of the matzo you can eat?"
quoted from chicken soup, please article.

never-fail soft matzo balls

this recipe always works. not much more to say than that.

ingredients:

4 eggs
4 tbsp oil
4 tbsp ice water
1 c matzo meal

1/2 - 3/4 tsp salt
1/8 - 1/4 tsp pepper

salted water for boiling

method:

whisk together the eggs and oil then add the water with the salt and pepper. add the matzo meal with a spoon and then set aside in fridge for at least 2 hrs [overnight is best].

when ready to make the matzo balls, heat a large pot of water to boiling and add salt [~1 tsp]. fill a bowl with water to moisten hands while forming them. using a tablespoon, take the mixture and form smooth balls. make them all like this and place them on a plate. then add them to boiling water one at a time.

note before cooking all of them: it's best to take a small marble sized piece and let it cook for 10 minutes or so [covered] and then taste it before continuing with all of them to adjust for salt and pepper.

cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and set the heat to low. cook for 30 minutes exactly and don't open the pot to peek inside even though it's tempting.

remove the pot from the burner and still closed, let it rest for 15 minutes.

makes 12 large matzo balls or 24 smaller ones. they can be made before the holiday and frozen until needed.


stuffed & baked matzo balls

the following recipe is interesting in that each matzo balls has a little stuffing inside it and has been baked to a golden brown before serving in the soup. i've tried it on guests and the consensus was that they were very good. it is from joan nathan. it's a little more work than usual and not as soft texturally as the other two recipes here but it's worth the results.

ingredients:

stuffing:

1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp oil or shmaltz
2 tbsp matzo meal
1 egg yolk
salt, pepper to taste
1/8 tsp cinnamon

matzo ball itself:

4 eggs
2 tbsp shmaltz or margarine
1 c matzo meal
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp chopped parsley
4 tbsp chicken soup or water

12 c water

method:

for the matzo balls:

beat eggs and fat together. stir in matzo meal, salt and parsley. add the 4 tbsp (up to 6) of chicken stock or water. put in fridge for 1 hour at least.

for stuffing:

fry the onion in oil or fat until very browned and crisp. remove from heat and put in small bowl. add the matzo meal and seasonings. mix in the egg yolk and stir well.

to make the matzo balls:

divide the matzo meal mixture into 12 portions. dip hands in water and make a ball. press a hole in the center with your thumb and wiggle it a bit to enlarge the hole. add 1/12 of the stuffing mixture, about 1 tsp, and close up the matzo ball.

do this to all of them. add the matzo balls to the 12 c salted water which has been brought to a boil. lower the heat to simmer and cook the stuffed balls well covered for 1/2 hour.

preheat the oven to 350F. oil a 12 portion KLP muffin tin.

remove the balls from water after 30 minutes. place each one in the greased muffin tin. oil the matzo ball a bit too before baking. bake them until they are golden brown.

serve these in chicken soup as you normally would.


knaidlach mit mandlen

this version has the addition of ground almonds [mandlen] in it. i usually make very small knaidlach with these by the tsp or 1/2 tsp. the final texture should be soft.

ingredients:

1 large egg
3 tbsp unmelted soft margarine, leveled

3 - 4 tbsp water or stock
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
pepper to taste

2 tbsp ground almonds, leveled
6 tbsp matzo meal, leveled

method:

beat the egg well with a wire whisk.

mix egg and margarine together.

add stock or water and seasonings.

with a spoon, mix in the almonds and matzo meal and stir well.

refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

take spoonfuls and form the balls with wet hands.

add them to boiling and salted water or the soup itself and cook covered for 30 minutes.

do not lift lid during cooking or they will sink to the bottom and chances are they will harden.


enjoy!

i will leave you with this question — is it just me or does almost everyone feel they can't eat anymore once the matzo ball soup part is done??

11 comments:

Emily DeVoto, Ph.D., said...

Are you kidding me? all that waiting, nibbling on a leaf here, a bissel matzo there, and you're not ready to eat the whole table after the matzo balls?

Obviously your seders are too short! ;)

Offline, I'll share a story with you about lifting the pot lid.

Emily DeVoto, Ph.D., said...

sorry to hog the comments, but instead of cinnamon I add powdered (or, better, fresh!) ginger to the knaidlach...

archana said...

Just went through your recipes in the blog. They are wonderful ,the naan chocolate cake . Other recipes are new to me.
Even I made Naan with a similar recipe :)In India we get ready made clay tandoor too in all sizes. Some are compact enough to keep in the kitchen :)

burekaboy — said...

hey em - what [comment] hogging?! you were the first to leave one!!

are u kidding me?!! i'm ready to bust after the soup course! [did u know that the right amount of matzo is like almost half of one of those big shmuras?? try doing that 2 or 3 times and then eating the soup, not to mention the g.fish and then chopped liver with MORE matzo. uggh, that's all before you've even had the meal and then there's MORE MORE MORE. one mustn't forget dessert, too!! in all honesty, once you've done all the hours of cooking, you really don't end up very hungry for some reason.

i forgot to mention the ginger. we never put it but i know others do. didn't know it was a USA thing, too. can't wait to hear the lid story :D catch u later.

archana - welcome and thank you for your comment. i am glad you liked what you have seen.

i didn't know that you could get small tandoors for the kitchen (though it doesn't surprise me, at all). how small are they and how are they heated? i imagine baking naan and cooking other things in them makes all the difference ;p

Mandira said...

I love the step by step pictures. The soup looks delicious.

Lisa R said...

One of my cousins added dill to the matzah balls. 'Twas yum!

Personally, I love the hard ones. :)

Lannae said...

Thanks for the recipes! I am going to add your blog to my blog roll. Yumm!

burekaboy — said...

mandira - hi there. thank you :D

lisa - yup, me too, i love 'em when they're hard. dill is also a fave of mine. can't have the soup without it!

hey lannae - you're welcome. thanks for adding me to your list ;p

aria said...

hi burekaboy, i love the never fail matzo balls! i've never made them before but i can imagine how good they are at home from scratch. especially these baked....so neat :)

Ruth Daniels said...

As for being full after the soup - of course! but does that stop anyone from eating the rest of the meal? In my house everyone goes into a coma sometime after the main course and before dessert.

burekaboy — said...

hey aria - you should give it a whirl. they're easy to make and worth the effort :D

hi ruth - LOL, everyone is groaning by the time the soup comes and goes but who can resist the rest?? never fails that by the time dessert rolls around people are over stuffed. i say start with dessert first!! :)