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.
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?"
never-fail soft matzo balls
this recipe always works. not much more to say than that.
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
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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??