Passover begins with a Seder service, which tells of the story of the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, followed by an elegant meal. The highlight of the meal for me is always Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls. The matzoh balls should be light and airy; they should float-not sink. This year I’m on a time crunch, here is a simple soup with amazingly airy matzoh balls and fresh vegetables for flavor. It is easy to make and I think it’s pretty good.
Chicken Soup with Airy Matzoh Balls
Ideally, the chicken soup for a Seder meal during Passover is made from scratch, simmering the chicken pieces with onions, celery and carrots for several hours to develop a rich, flavorful broth. There are plenty of blogs and WEB sites with good recipes for this process. Since Passover Seder is on Monday evening this year and I’m on a time crunch, I am opting to skip this step and use purchased chicken broth.
Purchased chicken broth is very salty, even the reduced-sodium brands contain a fair amount of sodium. As the soup simmers on the stove, it can reduce and become even more salty. On the other hand, salt-free broth is very bland. Something in between is needed. I’m using a combination of Swanson 33% Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth and Low-Sodium Chicken Broth which I found at Fresh Market.
Flavorful Root Vegetables
One of my favorite soups is a “root soup” made using winter vegetables with roots (shown left to right): celeriac root, shallots, carrots, parsnips and turnips. It’s a very flavorful and hearty soup. While the “main event” of the soup during Passover is the matzoh balls, a few of these vegetables mixed in adds flavor, color and interest to the soup.
Any combination of these vegetables can be used, and not alot are needed. I diced the vegetables, simmered them in the broth for a half hour or until tender. Then I removed the vegetables with a strainer, set aside until ready to serve, reheated and added a few to each serving of soup.
Light and Airy Matzoh Balls
The best part of the soup is the matzoh balls. Packaged mixes are available, they are actually very tasty. However, It’s easy to made the matzoh balls from scratch.
Ideal matzoh balls are airy ones; they should float to the top of the broth/water while cooking rather than sink to the bottom of the pot. To make matzoh balls “light and airy”, separate the egg yolks and whites, whip the whites until they just begin to make stiff peaks, then very carefully fold the whites back into the egg yolks along with the matzoh meal. Many recipes call for refrigerating the matzoh batter for about a half hour, however, I add the matzoh balls to the boiling broth (or water) immediately.
I add just a little seasoning and beat the egg yolks with a wire whip to combine: 1/4 tsp salt (optional), 1/8 tsp white pepper, 1/8 tsp dried thyme leaves.
This recipe makes 18 very small matzoh balls, shown here (floating). Form them about the size of a small spoon. Wet your hands and wet the spoon so the matzoh balls will slide into the broth or water. I am expecting 10 people at our Seder dinner, so I plan to make 12 matzoh balls, making them a little larger and serving one per person. (Someone will want a second helping.)
Very Airy Matzoh Balls
As a note of trivia, baking powder and baking soda can be used during Passover. “Leavening” which is supposed to be avoided during the Passover holiday is that which is made by fermentation with flour. Since baking powder and baking soda are simply chemicals, they are actually permissible during Passover. Interestingly, packaged matzoh ball mixes may contain leavening agents. Adding a touch of baking powder to the matzoh balls assures that they will be very airy. Of course, in the spirit of keeping everything without leavening, the matzoh balls turn out well if the baking powder is omitted.
2-4 carrots (1 cup peeled and diced)
1/4 cup peeled and diced each: parsnip (1/2 small), turnip (about 1/2 small), celeriac root (about 1/4 small root)
2 shallots, sliced
1 Tbsp oil
48-oz container of Swanson 33% Sodium-Reduced Chicken Broth
32-oz container of Low-Sodium Chicken Broth (found at Fresh Market), use if additional broth is needed OR use second container of Swanson 33% Sodium-Reduced Chicken Broth
Fresh chopped Italian parsley for garnish
- Peel, slice, dice the vegetables in small pieces and set aside,
- Heat oil to medium In large heavy pot with wide top, add shallots, saute a few minutes, lowering heat if necessary,
- Add the 48-oz container of Swanson 33% Sodium-Reduced Chicken Broth,
- Add the vegetables, bring to a simmer, just under boiling and cook about 30-45 minutes until tender,
- With a slotted spoon, removed the vegetables to a bowl and set aside. Keep the broth on the stove on very low temp, and return to a boil when ready to cook the matzoh balls.
Make the Matzoh Balls (while the vegetables are cooking)
3 large eggs at room temperature, (I’ve standardized the recipe on large eggs, not extra large or jumbo size),
1/4 tsp salt (optional),
1/8 tsp ground white pepper,
1/8 tsp dried thyme leaves,
1/2 cup matzoh meal,
1/2 tsp baking powder (optional)
- Separate the egg yolks and whites, set the egg whites aside,
- Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl; add the salt, white pepper, dried thyme leaves and whip with wire whip to combine well, set aside,
- In a small mixing bowl of electric mixer, beat the egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks just begin to form,
- Gently fold about 1/3 of the egg whites into the egg yolks with a lifting motion,
- Fold the remainder of the egg whites into the egg yolks — they don’t have to be entirely combined, use a minimum of motion,
- Add the baking powder to the matzoh meal, then sprinkle the matzoh meal over the egg mixture and gently fold into the eggs,
- Bring the sodium-reduced broth back to a boil (some recipes call for cooking the matzoh balls in water), I cook them in the broth in a very wide pot (or a wok can be used),
- Wet your fingers and a spoon, gently form each matzoh ball by small spoonfuls using your fingers, slide into the broth (you can also form all the matzoh balls and set them on a plate and then slide them all in at once into the broth),
- Reduce the heat of the broth, cover with a tight lid and simmer about a half hour. Flip the matzoh balls over using a slotted spoon with about 10 minutes left. They can cook longer if needed–just turn to stove temperature to very low–I suggest adding back the cooked vegetables here,
- Prior to serving, taste the broth, add the second container of broth if more broth is needed or if the broth is too salty, Return back to a boil for a few minutes.
- If you didn’t add back the cooked vegetables earlier, rewarm in microwave, or add to the broth to reheat.
- Ladle about a 1/2 cup broth into each soup bowl along with a few of the vegetables, place one or more matzoh balls into each bowl and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
This serves 8 to 12 people. There may be extra broth, extra vegetables. Refrigerate and serve as left-overs. Enjoy!