Friday, November 22, 2013

Turkey Matzo Ball Soup – That Old Thanksgivingukkah Classic

Soup is always an obvious choice for leftover-turkey-themed videos, but it wasn’t until I heard about “Thanksgivingukkah,” that I knew that soup would be turkey matzo ball.

This year, Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah fall on the same date for the first time since 1888, and this rare occurrence has been deemed, “Thanksgivingukkah.” And when we say rare, we mean rare, as this convergence will not happen again for another 77,000 years!

As I mention in the video, while pleased with my matzo ball skills, I’m not sure I’ve ever had the real thing (if that even exists), and so I don’t have anything to measure mine against. I’ve had it at delicatessens out here, but never in NYC, or other more legit locations. I’m using what seems to be a fairly standard formula, and they are quite light and tender, so until informed otherwise, I’m going assume these are pretty good.

However, there is one thing I would love to know. Why do “we” boil the matzo balls in salted water, instead of the soup? I’ve heard it’s so the broth doesn’t get cloudy, but is that really all there is to it? Speaking of the broth, yours will undoubtedly be superior to mine. By the time I got to this video, I only had a few scrawny pounds of meat and bones left, and yet it still came out wonderfully flavorful.

If you use all the scraps from a decent sized bird, you should get an incredibly rich broth, which is exactly what you want to be ladling over your matzo balls. As far as extra ingredients go, I like a minimalist approach with this soup, but of course, feel free to embellish your stockpot with whatever you see fit.

Some of this will be determined by how you season your Thanksgiving bird, and I can personally verify that this year’s Peruvian version worked nicely. So, I hope you enjoy the coming Thanksgivingukkah, and here’s hoping the end of your turkey means the beginning of a delicious matzo ball soup. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions (I only served one matzo ball, but this will make enough soup for 4 portions with 2 matzo balls per serving):

For the turkey broth:
3-4 pounds of roasted turkey bones and meat scraps (use everything you have, the fattier the pieces the better)
at least 2 quarts water or chicken broth, or enough to cover
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery
- simmer on low for 3 hours or until all the meat falls off the bones and it’s flavorless.
- skim and reserve at least 4 tbsp of the melted fat that rises to the top
- strain, and you should have about 6 cups of broth. If you have more, reduce down to 6 cups (do not season with salt until reduced). If you didn’t get quite 6 cups, just add some chicken broth to make up the difference.

Note: my turkey was already very well seasoned, so I didn’t need to add much to the stockpot. You can adjust your broth according, and can certainly add things like bay leaf, thyme springs, parsley stems, etc.

For the matzo balls (makes 8):
2 large beaten eggs
2 tbsp rendered melted turkey fat
1 tsp fine salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne
2 tbsp seltzer or club soda
1/2 cup matzo meal
- Mix and chill 30 minutes at least
- Boil in salted water (1 1/2 quarts water with 1 1/2 tablespoons salt) for 30 minutes and serve with turkey broth

For the soup:
2 tbsp rendered melted turkey fat
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
6 cups very rich turkey or chicken broth (see recipe above)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped dill
8 cooked matzo balls!


janeofalltrades said...

This looks delicious! Coming from a nice Jewish girl from the NY area (what you call "legit"), although I've never heard of putting animal fat into a matzo ball batter, I'm sure that's how our ancestors did it in Europe before canola oil existed - and if there's anything that could possibly improve a hot, fluffy matzo ball, that might just be it! It definitely sounds yummy!

In answer to your question about boiling them in salted water rather than the soup - it's actually twofold. One reason is, as you mentioned, to not make the soup cloudy, and the other is that the matzo balls "drink" up the liquid that they cook in, and good Eastern European Jewish housewives would never waste a drop of their precious, so-clear-you-could-read-the-date-on-a-penny-in-the-bottom-of-a-bowl soup. (Yes, that's how they used to judge!) More economical to cook in salted water than use the broth they actually paid for chicken to flavor. Money was tight (read: nonexistent) so they did what they could.

Thanks for your awesome recipes! They never disappoint!

wickets said...

+janeofalltrades Thanks for the boiling water/broth explanation

Chef John said...

Yes, thanks! Great info!

FSB said...

I used to have a bowl of matzo-ball soup at a San Francisco deli around the corner from where I worked. I knew it wasn't real, however... the matzo-balls had cold, cold hearts from being stored in the reefer until needed. Yours will be a treat, served with freshly boiled balls.

Unknown said...

looks delicious..
Thanks for your all your recipes! Good Job !!!

Chibby said...

Thanks for the info, Jane. Again, I say blast this low-carb diet, except, it works.

blogagog said...

Chef John, you use a ceramic coated cast-iron pot in a bunch of your videos. Do you know if they're dishwasher safe? Do you have a favorite brand or are they all the same?

Sorry this is off-topic. I'm doing Christmas shopping, and you are the internet's goto guy for cooking questions. That's a pretty big responsibility :).

Chef John said...

not sure, but we don't put in the DW. I think all the top brands are the same quality!

Margo said...

Dana G, I found several brands and buying options on Amazon. Just search for Matzo Meal.

juliabritendark said...

I have loved your videos since 2009!!! Can I pound out some saltines in a freezer bag with my meat mallet, adjust for the additional salt, and call it non-kosher matzo-ball soup?

Sialia said...

Marvelous demo. You are pretty close to perfection with your matzah ball technique. I find it helps me to think of "poaching" them rather than boiling them. The water has to be at a full rolling boil when the balls first go in because they are refrigerator cold and will bring the temperature down fast. But once they are all in and you put the lid on, it should never come quite up to a full boil again--the barest simmer does the job--that and the trapped steam. If they boil too hot, they tighten up like little golf balls and never puff. If the water is too cold, they fall apart into mush. Yours looked perfect, but for novices who might overlook this detail, it's worth pointing out that the temperature really matters.

DanSchlag said...

We don't boil the matzo balls in the soup because the thought is that they "steal" too much of the flavor of the soup. Matzo balls are in a category of dumplings/add ins called "ganuf," or thief, for that very reason. I don't think they actually steal the flavor rather than add starch to the soup and cloud the flavor. I usually do not add any salt to my matzo ball batter, but boil them in heavily salted water, like for pasta.

andy said...

This sounds a lot like what mom used to make, though instead of matzo meal she used farina, and lard instead of schmalz. She shaped the batter into quenelles with a big spoon, and plopped them right into the broth.

hawkturkey said...

Yes, I can vouch that pounded saltines will work well for a non-matzo matzo ball, or crumble them in a blender. I even used corn flake crumbs once. Use it weight for weight (not necessarily volume for volume) instead of classic matzo meal. It wouldn't be a suitable Passover recipe, obviously, but would be perfectly fine for other uses. Call it a matzoless ball, and feel free to use other add-ins like dehydrated chopped mixed veggies to further expand the concept.

Unknown said...

They look fabulous!! My mom always used chicken schmaltz to make her matzo balls. She also used schmaltz in her chopped liver. YUMMY!!!! That's how all the ladies from the old country did it. No wonder why us Jewish people have such a high rate of heart disease. As she became more health conscious she started using vegetable oil and only used schmaltz for the high holidays. Another trick for getting them super fluffy is adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of baking powder for every cup of matzo meal. Add it after you have made your mixture just before refrigerating. P.S. I love your videos. I will never make prime rib the old way again after using your formula. Delish!!!!

LC said...

Your recipe looks pretty legit. Matzoh balls without poultry fat ought to be considered a crime against humanity (chicken is traditional, of course, but I've had amazing results with duck fat and goose fat). In my family, we get the fluffy texture by separating the eggs, beating the whites into firm peaks, and then recombining everything. And yes, boiling the matzoh balls in the chicken soup would make it cloudy.

99bonk said...

My sister made the lightest, fluffiest, tastiest matzoh balls ever - she froze the uncooked matzo balls, which puffed up when tossed into boiling salted water. She also included chopped parsley in her matzo ball mix - just enough to give elegant little green flecks to the finished balls.

Anonymous said...

Did I tell you how much I love you Chef John! We watch your videos all the time even if we are not cooking! haha! thank you for bringing fun to the table! Maria,

Anonymous said...

Did I tell you how much I love you Chef John! We watch your videos all the time even if we are not cooking! haha! thank you for bringing fun to the table! Maria,

Unknown said...

Umm, has no one ever told you about the raging argument about matzah balls? Not all of us want them soft and fluffy! Some people like them dense and chewy, what we kids called bullets, and what other people have called sinkers, as opposed to floaters.

As a young wife I worked very hard on my technique, which I have taught others, to make sure that my matzah balls stay nice and dense. My family would riot at the table if I served them soft matzah balls, and then they would have me committed.

Soft matzah balls taste good, chewy matzah balls taste even better.