chicken soup and matzo balls

A commenter formally posted a request, and some friends have informally asked for, occasional recipes if I'm going to post tantilizing menus. Here's my chicken soup, which is better than your jewish grandmother's (maybe great-grandma has me beat, I'll concede. But even Bubbe probably uses that nasty box-mix for matzo balls).

My chicken soup is adapted from David Rosengarten in the Dean & DeLuca Cookbook, which is a fantastic resource that I strongly recommend for its detailed treatment of "classics" and information about various ingredients. The matzo balls are almost exactly Rosengarten's

Goyische Chicken Soup


  • 1 whole chicken — see note below
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 onion
  • 1 turnip
  • 5 ish carrots
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 3 parsnips
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5 sprigs fresh dill
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • some salt and lots of pepper


Note on planning ahead: you need to make the matzo ball mix a few hours ahead or the night before. Most crucially, you must skin the entire chicken and render its fat. One chicken produces just slightly more than enough schmaltz for one batch of matzo balls, whose recipe follows

On to the soup. Bring the chicken and water to a boil, skimming the foam of connective tissue from the top, lest your soup be cloudy. While it's on its way to boiling, chop all the vegetables. Leave the herbs whole, and simply peel/smash the garlic. Add everything else to the pot and simmer, partially covered, until the chicken is cooked.

Remove the chicken and let it cool just enough to take it off the bone. Save the meat, and return the bones to the pot for another hour or so.

The soup is done. It can be refrigerated now, if you like, and you can eat it tomorrow, or you can remove the bones and add the chopped meat back in, and have a satisfyingly restorative dinner.

Matzo Balls for soup above

  • 3 Tbsp schmaltz
  • 3 Tbsp club soda
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup (generous) matzo meal

Freshly rendered schmaltz – chicken fat – is absolutely critical. If you're going to substitute vegetable oil, or kosher-market jar schmaltz, please save yourself the hassle of matzo balls entirely and just add pasta to your soup.

How to render chicken fat: take all the fat from your chicken, put it in a saucepan with ½–1 cup water over medium heat. Boil all the water away and you're left with tasty chicken fat. Pour through a strainer. Why my matzo balls bring all the boys to the yard: I also add fresh herbs to this mix. A sprig or two of rosemary, or thyme, imparts a delicate and fleeting perfume to each bite of the final result.

Beat the eggs well with a fork, add the water, salt, pepper, and schmaltz; stir in the matzo meal. Let sit 4–14 hours in the refrigerator.

To make the matzo balls, it helps to at least parboil them in a separate pan, rather than trying to let the soup cook them. It just takes too long. So in a pan of salted boiling water, drop walnut-sized balls of dough until they are cooked. Then transfer and serve in the soup.

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