Matzoh Balls For Starchefs
Matzoh balls are one of the culinary mysteries of the
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 expand and
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
5. Using about 2 tablespoons of the chilled batter for each
matzoh ball, and
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 the palms
of your hands into neat balls. As you form the balls, drop
them into the
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. They will
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 left unsaid.