Matzoh Balls For Starchefs
Matzoh balls are one of the culinary mysteries of the universe.
make them heavy? What makes them light? These are questions right
up there with “Why does my cheesecake crack? I can list the answers,
specify the ingredients, outline the procedures, and reveal all
the tricks, and you may still not get the result you desire, whatever
that desired result may be. Every family has a different idea
about the perfect matzoh ball. In any case, it is just one of
those things for which you have to have a hand, either innate
or learned, and perhaps the right spiritual and emotional vibrations.
I say this as one Jewish cook who does not have the hand. Only
once to my knowledge have I actually served terrible (by my family's
standards) matzo balls, but that’s only because I've managed to
toss out all the failed attempts before anyone could taste them.
Then there was this situation just a few years ago when I made
Someone Else's Revolutionary Matzoh Ball Recipe. Out of duty to
my listeners, I felt I had to test this bizarre recipe from a
Long Island restaurateur who is famous for his matzoh balls. The
man doesn't as much as scramble an egg for himself the rest of
the year, but on Passover he makes hundreds of matzoh balls for
his restaurant customers. My version of his matzoh balls -- stupidly
tested on the night of the first Seder -- were gross, a disaster.
The matzoh ball moment at our seder was only an hour or so away
and all I had were amorphous blobs of matzoh gruel. There was
nothing else to do but quickly whip up a batch according to my
old, more standard, and reasonably reliable recipe (the one that
has been on the back of the matzoh meal box for most of this century)
and pray that they would be fine even though I was breaking the
number one cardinal rule of matzoh ball cookery. That is: let
the batter rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour, preferably
for several hours, or, optimally, all day. This time my batter
sat for only as long as it took me to eat one piece of gefilte
fish; let’s say 10 minutes. (It was a big piece of fish.) In the
end, these were the best matzoh balls I’ve ever made: Perfectly
shaped, light. Go know.
Traditional Matzoh Balls
1/2 cup seltzer
4 to 6 tablespoons melted
(but not hot) chicken fat
or a combination of chicken fat
and vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
1 cup matzoh meal
1. With a table fork, beat the eggs until well blended.
2. Stir in the seltzer, the schmaltz (or the schmaltz and oil),
and the salt
3. Gradually stir in the matzoh meal. Cover and refrigerate for
at least 1
hour, or preferably longer.
4. Bring a large quantity of water to a gentle boil in a very
wide and deep
pot with a cover; one with enough surface so that when the balls
float to the top, there will be only one layer of balls -- and
not crowded at
that. I use an old-fashioned covered roaster placed over two burners.
5. Using about 2 tablespoons of the chilled batter for each matzoh
keeping your hands moist with cold water (for convenience, I keep
a bowl of
cold water next to me as I work), gingerly roll the batter between
of your hands into neat balls. As you form the balls, drop them
6. When all the balls are in the pot, cover the pot, adjust the
heat so the
water simmers briskly, and cook the matzoh balls for 30 minutes.
double in size and float to the top.
7. Remove the matzoh balls from the water with a slotted spoon
and serve in
hot chicken soup.
Ahead of time note: I have never frozen matzoh balls, or
made them ahead of time and let them sit for more than an hour
or so, but some people say that they do both and that they’re
fine. I have no idea how New York’s Jewish delicatessens keep
theirs in such fine form for an entire day, and I’ll bet I wouldn't
enjoy them as much if I did know. There are some things better