Matzo ball soup is a Hanukkah staple and, of course, the very best way to kick off an evening of latke dipping, dreidel spinning, and gift unwrapping. Most families have their own treasured recipe, but this week, we’re making a version from N.Y.C.-based modern Jewish deli Mile End Delicatessen.
The recipe comes from co-founder Noah Bernamoff’s late grandmother, Lee Troster. “As a child, I was addicted to her matzo ball soup,” says Bernamoff. The secret is in the schmaltz, or rendered chicken fat, which can be purchased from a butcher and gives the matzo balls a rich, buttery flavor. Try the recipe below and combine with your own favorite homemade or store-bought chicken soup. Or, if you’re feeling up to the challenge, test out Mile End’s rendition, which gets a “deep layer of richness and silkiness” from three (!) double-cooked chickens.
Mile End Deli's Matzo Balls
Makes: About 10
1 ½ cups matzo meal
4 large eggs
⅓ cup schmaltz
¼ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp baking powder
1. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. (You can make the mixture a day ahead; you’ll need to store it in a sealed container that has enough room to allow the mixture to expand.)
2. Form the matzo mixture into balls that are a little larger than a quarter; they should be completely smooth on the outside with no cracks. Set aside.
Mile End Deli's Chicken Soup
Serves: 6-8 as an entrée
3 small chickens (about 2 ½ lbs each), each cut into 8 pieces
10 black peppercorns
2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more to taste
4 medium parsnips, peeled, 2 left whole and 2 cut into 2- to 3-inch batons
4 medium carrots, peeled, 2 left whole and 2 cut into 2- to 3-inch batons
4 stalks of celery, trimmed, 2 left whole and 2 cut into 2- and 3-inch batons
3 large onions, peeled, 2 cut in half and 1 coarsely chopped
3 sprigs of dill
3 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
3 sprigs of thyme
2 fresh bay leaves
Cooked egg noodles
1. Place the chicken pieces in a large stockpot along with the peppercorns, salt, and enough water to cover the ingredients by about 2 inches. Heat the pot over medium heat until the contents of the pot start to simmer. Adjust the heat to maintain a low simmer and continue cooking, uncovered, for about 1 ½ hours, occasionally skimming off any foam and fat that rise to the top.
2. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the breast and thigh sections and reserve them for the soup (or another use, like chicken salad), leaving the drumsticks and wings in the pot. Add the 2 whole parsnips, 2 whole carrots, 2 whole celery stalks, and 2 halved onions to the pot and continue to simmer for another 1 ½ hours, stirring and skimming occasionally.
3. Remove the pot from the heat and add the dill, parsley, thyme, and bay leaves. Allow the herbs to steep for 30 minutes. Then strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the solids.
4. Return the strained soup to the pot and bring it to a low simmer. Add the parsnip, carrot, and celery batons, chopped onions, and matzo balls. Simmer for another 15 minutes, then add some of the reserved breast and thigh meat, if you like. Simmer for 5 minutes more and season to taste.
5. Add the matzo balls to your chicken soup 20 minutes or so before serving, keeping the soup at a low, steady simmer.