Mastering the Matzah Ball
By Annette Keen
had to grow up before I would fully appreciate what a natural technological marvel Mother is, and never more so than in her kitchen, preparing matzah balls for Passover.
She weighs ingredients by their heaviness in her hand. She calculates amounts with a lightning fast, eye-level glance. She creates matzah balls of such routine perfection that in my childish assumptions, it seemed like anyone could pull it off.
After all, isn't a matzah ball just a blob of pulverized matzah? Just moisten it with eggs and oil, shape into a ball, and pop into boiling water. "Hah!"
For those like me who had to learn the hard way that matzah ball making is not necessarily an inherited Jewish trait, I am happy to share my matzah ball making adventures.
The major ingredient is patience.
Make the matzah ball a bit too light and it may self-destruct into a high gloss mush, coating all digestive passageways in and out of the intestines. Be a little to heavy handed with the matzah meal and you risk creating a monumental matzah ball, one so heavy that it calls into play the laws of intergalactic physics, as it bends space in the soup pot, sucking less dense of its brother balls into itself, black hole-like.
This is not always a disaster.
Once you get over the shock of the rising monumental matzah ball launching the lid of the soup pot across the kitchen, Frisbee-like. Things may yet be salvageable. It all depends on density! If the matzah ball doesn't bend your fork, chances are good you can chop it into bite-size morsels.
But, Oh how I long to create just one of Mother's perfect matzah balls! So airy it floats atop a steaming bowl of chicken broth, setting off a chorus of "oohs" and "ahhs," and leading its maker to rhapsodize that perhaps, after all, the trashing of the kitchen may have been worth it.
Two Recipes for Pesach
Mother's Knaidlach for Pesach
Matza Ball Soup - photo © 2008 by Harvey Mendelson
(As best I can quantify into a measurable recipe. Good Luck!)
2 eggs, room temperature
3 tablespoons chicken schmaltz [or solid shortening]
1/2 cup goldener yoich [chicken broth]
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup matzah meal
Beat the yokes with the schmaltz. Add the broth. Mix well. In another bowl, mix the salt into the matzah meal. In a third bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Add the matzah meal to the yoke mixture, and then fold in the beaten egg whites. Cover bowl and refrigerate for about a half hour. With moistened hands, shape chilled mixture into about 18 small balls and pop into at least two quarts of boiling salted water. Cover pot and reduce to a gentle boil for no more than a half hour. Start checking after 20 minutes. Serve in a steaming bowl of chicken broth.
Kugelach, A Knaidlach Alternative
Kugelach Soup - photo © 2008 by Harvey Mendelson
(Reprinted from the Cooking for Passover section in the all-occasion cookbook, Divine Kosher Cuisine, produced by Congregation Agudat Achim, Schenectady, New York, USA) --order at: www.divinekosher.com
A creative and frugal alternate to knaidlach during Pesach week, these kugelach allow the "ballibooste" to recycle some leftover chicken into a truly delicious and festive dish. Any shredded cooked poultry or meat can be used.
6 cups matzah farfel
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chicken schmaltz [or solid shortening]
1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken
Preheat oven to 375o F. Grease muffin tins generously. Place farfel in colander and dampen with boiling water. Beat eggs with salt and add schmaltz. Mix in farfel and chicken. Heat tins five minutes. Pour batter into hot tins, two-thirds full. Bake about 20 minutes, until browned. Serve in a steaming bowl of chicken broth.
Annette Keen is a freelance writer in Niskayuna, New York.
from the April 2008 Passover Edition of the Jewish Magazine