Recipe: Matzo ball soup -- not just for Passover, and good for whatever ails you

Kim Sunée
Although some people lovingly refer to it as "Jewish penicillin," matzo ball soup's comforting, healing properties are conferred equally upon people of all faiths.
Kim Sunée photo
Homemade chicken stock is always good to keep on hand for a quick meal, and luckily it can be frozen for long-term storage.
Kim Sunée photo
Matzo meal is an unleavened bread, with the consistency of a cracker, and its manufacture is controlled by Jewish dietary law.
Kim Sunée photo
Form the matzo balls about the size of a golf ball, but not much bigger because they puff up during cooking.
Kim Sunée photo

“Do you prefer sinkers or floaters?” my friend asks when I try to get his mother’s matzo ball soup recipe from him. “'cause if you’re into floaters, you’ll have to find another one. My mother likes her balls dense.”

Chicken soup with matzo balls, lovingly known by my Jewish friends as "Jewish penicillin," is traditionally served as part of the Jewish holiday Passover meal, which falls this year between April 14 and April 22.

Despite its star status during Passover, I make matzo ball soup all year long, regardless of the holiday or whether or not anyone near me is in need of its immediate healing properties. Matzo, unleavened bread, along with eggs, broth or water and schmaltz (or chicken fat) make up the heart of these dumplings.

There are clearly two camps when it comes to matzo balls, those who like sinkers (nice and dense) and those who like them fluffy and light. I prefer the latter and always made mine with seltzer or carbonated water to “lighten” them up. Recently, I tried Michael Ruhlman’s recipe that includes baking powder to give them lift. (Note: If you’re a traditionalist, there are some things to note about baking powder and Passover).

If you prefer your broth clear, then cook the “floaters” first in boiling salted water and once cooked, add to your chicken soup/broth. I don’t mind my broth cloudy and actually like that the matzo soaks up the flavor while cooking in the soup. These are basic matzo balls, but you could always add some herbs to the mix or even a bit of saffron or turmeric for flavor and color.

Chicken Soup with Fluffy Matzo Balls

(Recipe adapted from Michael Ruhlman)

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients (for 8 matzo balls)

1 cup matzo meal
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup schmaltz (chicken fat) or vegetable oil
1/4 cup chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 quarts homemade chicken soup or chicken stock
Fresh chopped dill or parsley, for garnish

Directions

1.  Combine the matzo meal and the next six ingredients together in a mixing bowl until combined; cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature about 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. If chilled, bring back to room temperature before forming the balls.

2.  Dampen hands with water and form matzo mixture into eight golf-ball size rounds; resist the urge to make them bigger because they will fluff up and double in size while cooking.

3.  Bring a large pot of homemade chicken soup or chicken stock to a boil; reduce heat to a low simmer and add matzo balls. Cover pot and cook for about 30 minutes or until matzo balls are light and fluffy and cooked through. Garnish with fresh chopped dill or parsley.

More Passover recipes good any time of year

Try making matzo meal at home with tips from The Kitchn

Wilted Dandelion Greens with Toasted Matzo Crumbles

Matzo Crisp with Pear, Apple, and Cranberries

Potato Kugel with Fried Shallots

Brisket

Kim Sunée ate and lived in Europe for ten years before working as a food editor for Southern Living magazine and Cottage Living magazine. Her writing has appeared in Food & Wine, The Oxford American and Asian American Poetry and Writing. Sunée has appeared several times as a guest judge on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America. She is currently based in Anchorage and working on a cookbook, "A Mouthful of Stars," to be published by Andrews McMeel in 2014. For more food and travel, visit www.kimsunee.com.