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Today's Recipe: Grandma Bessie's Matzo Ball Soup

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
GRANDMA BESSIE'S CHICKEN MATZO BALL SOUP

This is not a typical Matzo Ball recipe. Rather, this is a recipe that has been used mostly for holidays and special occasions as itcontains ground chicken breasts. In Eastern Europe, Italy and the Mid-East, where Grandma Bessie's recipes have their origin, it was an expensive luxury to make such a soup.

1 chicken breast fillet, 2 halves, skinned and trimmed of fat
8 cups home made chicken broth (recipe follows)
3 eggs lightly beaten
3 tbs schmaltz*, unsalted butter or vegetable oil (preferably schmaltz)
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
3/4 cup matzo meal

Grind or finely chop the chicken breast. Combine eggs, 1/4 cup broth, schmaltz, salt, pepper, nutmeg, matzo meal and ground chicken breasts and mix well using your hands. Set aside in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Bring the broth to a boil. Meanwhile, shape the chicken mixture into about 12 balls and drop directly into the boiling stock. When the stock comes to the second boil reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

*Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat, and can be purchased at Kosher butchers. One may use unsalted butter, lard or vegetable oil as well, but the results won't taste quite the same and will not be authentic.

CHICKEN BROTH
4-lbs Chicken backs, necks, wings
4-qts water
2 carrots, quartered
1 large onion, quartered
2 med-large celery stalks, trimmed, quartered
5 peppercorns

Add chicken to cold water, bring to boil and turn down heat Add vegetables, simmer, skimming foam as needed. Simmer partially covered for 2 - 6 hours, add peppercorns last hour.
post #2 of 15
Shel, my "baubie" (grandmother) was named Bessie too. :bounce:

I hadn't heard of using ground chicken breast in matzo balls before. Was that an invention of hers or was it regional from her roots?
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post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hi,

While I don't think the technique was my grandma's invention, the recipe came from her. I do believe that using chicken in matzo balls was used throughout Europe - I believe I've a similar recipe that's about 150 years old using that technique that came from the Tuscan town of Ptigliano, and which was based on some Jewish recipes from Roman times.

There's a more luxurious version of this soup called Budino di Pollo a Brodo in which a chicken mousse is made and added to the broth that goes back quite a few centuries and which can be traced to Tuscany, if I recall correctly.

The poorer the region and the people, the more the chicken becomes the filler, up to the point where the chicken is the sole ingredient along with eggs as a binder and some herbs and spices for flavor.

Have you ever seen Dave Lieberman's cooking show on the Food Network? He's on on Saturday morning, and a few weeks ago he had his "bubby" on the show with him. She was guiding him through some of her recipes. It was really touching.

Perhaps many contemporary cooks, especially those who cook professionally, have forgotten about threse old recipes and techniques, and have gotten too caught up in "exotic" flavors and complex recipes to satisfy their upscale clientele. I can't speak for other grandmas, but mine left a few nice recipes that are very enjoyable, quite easy and inexpensive to prepare.

Shel
post #4 of 15
Gee, Mezz, I bet those chicken/matzoh balls are on the soft side, huh?
(Sorry, guys. Private joke)

My bubby was bedridden most of her life, so I never got to learn any of her secrets. But my Mom was a great cook, in that same tradition. Her lukshun kugel was to die for; and remains unreplicated.

Shel, you're so right about old recipes. I'm kind of a specialist in foodways of the 17-19th centuries, and it's incredible how much today's chef's have left behind.

I don't have to be creative to impress cooking pros. I just reach into my early-American bag of tricks, and, presto: An exciting "new" dish. I made colonial buttered shrimp once, for a chef friend, and she wanted to put it on the menu.

As to exotic flavors and complex recipes, there's not much a modern chef can do, in that regard, that tops some of the Roman and Babylonian extravaganzas.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
My grandma ended up bedridden for the remainder of her life as well when I was about ten or eleven yeras old. There were only a few of her recipes that I could get, and most were on scraps of paper and took some time to decipher, both because of her handwriting and the shorthand she used.

One recipe of hers that I always wanted was for her kugel. I've tried many, and some have been close and needed a bit or work and adaptation to bring them closer to what I remember. Can you post your bubby's recipe?

While no expert on ancient and early cooking, I've a few books on the subject and have tried to make some early recipes. There was a Roman cheesecake, iirc, and the "world's oldest" tomato sauce recipe.

Some years ago I corresponded with a couple of fellows on the subject of the "Mother Cuisine," and got some excellent recommendations for books on early cooking and recipes. I'd be happy to pass along that information if you're interested.

Back to more recent times, it may even now be hard to get the ingredients that were used only a few years ago, such as in the 1940s or 50s. I tried to get some real buttermilk recently, searched everywhere I could think of, and turned up nothing but results for "cultured" buttermilk, much of it low fat or 1%, etc. Insipid stuff!

Shel
post #6 of 15
Ya know, Shel, I've always wondered what they mean by "low fat" buttermilk.

Buttermilk is what's left after they remove the butterfat from milk. It's thin, and sour tasting, and, by definition, already is low fat.

When I was a kid they used to sell something called buttermilk, but it was the opposite. It had bits of butterfat floating around in it, and left a disgusting map on the glass after you drank it. Maybe that's what you're thinking of?
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
Yep, that's it. Grandpa Harry used to drink it, and I recall the taste and the bits of butter floating around, and the residue it left on the glass. Shelley Berman, the comedien, did a routine in which he mentioned "the ugly white map" on the glass of buttermilk.

Shel
post #8 of 15
Getting back to the original topic, I'm wondering if the use of chicken wasn't a way to stretch limited meat-protein supplies into a festive dish? Or, maybe, it was a way of using leftovers?

Perhaps there were numerous versions of "meated" matzoh balls?

What sparks this thought is a recipe in The Jewish Festival Cookbook (Fannie Engle & Gertrude Blair, 1966) for Liver Knaidlach:

1 cup cooked liver
1 med onion
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups matza meal
3 eggs beaten
1/4 cp poultry fat
1 tsp salt
Dash of pepper

Grind the liver and onion quite fine. Pour the boiling water over the matza meal and let stand until absored. When cool, mix with the ground liver and onion and beat together until very light and fluffy. Roll into small balls. Wet the hand to do this as the mixture will then handle much more easily. Drop gently into 3 quarts of boiling salted water. Cover and cook gently for about 25 minutes. Makes about 30.

I can easily envision all sorts of variations on this theme. How about, for instance, using a cup of flaked, cooked fish, and serving the balls in a sage broth? Or mix in ground beef or (for the nonJews) pork, make the balls small, and float them in a beefy broth, a la an Italian wedding soup?

All kinds of possibilities.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #9 of 15
So, in a fit of nothing better to do, I ran a search.

Wonder of wonders (to coin a phrase)! Turns out there's a fairly large body of literature dealing with filled matzoh balls.

Most of them follow Shel's lead, and talk about chicken. Some just generically say "meat." And at least one talks about Kneidlach With A Soul, which translates as folding a lump of schmaltz into the center of the matzah ball.

There are dairy versions, based around cheese. And there are all sorts of vegetarian variations on the theme, including potatoes, squash, and carrots among others.

For those raised in the tradition, the following may be of interest. For those not so raised, the following may be incomprehensible.

http://rabbiwein.com/modules.php?nam...rticle&sid=854
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #10 of 15
Gribenes in matzo balls? Never heard of that, but I'm willing to try. :lips:
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post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
I'm sure there are almost as many reasons to add meat or veggies to "knaidlach" as there are cooks that are doing it. As I noted in the original post, adding chicken was essentially a way to, as you say, stretch meat protein as chicken was expensive and hard to come by for certain families.

I recently read about adding bone marrow to the matzoh ball, which is, after all, pretty much a blank canvas and offers numerous creative possibilities.

Shel
post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 
Grandma Dora sometimes made matzoh balls that weere flecked with very fine pieces of carrot.

I can see adding herbs as you suggested, and floating the matzoh balls in an interesting flavored broth, perhaps with some meat or other vegetables, and perhaps by so doing elevate the simple matzoh ball from comfort food to gourmet status.

Hmmm ... maybe matzoh as the secret ingredient in an Iron Chef episode <LOL>

Shel
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
ROTFLMAO - I was thinking of doing just that last night.

Shel
post #14 of 15
>maybe matzoh as the secret ingredient in an Iron Chef episode <

Allaize cuisine, bubala!

Mezz, it wasn't gribenes, just a spoonful of the schmaltz, in the center of the matzoh ball. Who was it talked about schmaltz in the beard? :crazy:
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 
Truffled, Shiitake Matzo Ball Soup
Wayne Harley Brachman

3 tablespoons rendered chicken fat, melted (schmaltz)
1/4 cup chicken stock, plus 2 quarts chicken stock
1 tablespoon truffle oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup matzoh meal
Shiitake gribenes, recipe follows

Mix together schmaltz, stock, truffle oil, salt, and eggs. Thoroughly mix in matzo meal. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Form into golf balls and stuff with a teaspoon of shiitake gribenes in the center, and cook, covered, in 2 quarts of boiling chicken stock for 20 minutes until light as a feather but also heavy as a cannon ball. You may substitute duck or goose schmaltz (not ortelon schmaltz, it's too bony) You can use a little more salt, but it's not good for you.


Shiitake Gribenes:

Skin from 4 chicken thighs
1 large onion, chopped in large chunks
2 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
2 ounces shiitake mushrooms, cut in chunks
Salt and pepper

Saute chicken skin until fat exudes and lightly golden. Saute onion until deep golden brown. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Strain to separate solids from oil and reserve both. Saute mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of the oil in the pan until wilted. Remove shiitakes and reserve for the matzoh balls. Nosh on the gribenes, shmeared on rye bread.


Shel
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