Saturday, January 09, 2010
Manny's Matzoh Balls
My grandpa Manny owned a series of Jewish delis, in New York and New Jersey. I'm not sure exactly when he sold the last one and finally retired, but I definitely had a few years of childhood deli visits. I'd love to say that I remember slurping matzoh ball soup at the counter, but I don't. Most of my memories of the deli are full of the things that most interest a little kid -- playing with the carbon paper on the waiters' order pads, squirting drinks from the magic soda fountain, and stuffing my cheeks full puckeringly sour-salty pickled green tomatoes. Matzoh ball soup was something we made at home.
But even at home, we'd use my grandpa's deli recipe for matzoh balls. And we used it all the time. Matzoh ball soup wasn't just trotted out at the Jewish holidays -- it was the default chicken soup whenever someone was sick, or needed warming up, or just happened to have brought home some fresh dill. I've made it so many times that it no longer conjures up singular childhood memories -- it's hard to be nostalgic over something you've eaten a half dozen times in the last six months. Even so, it's still my go-to comfort food.
A good recipe is an important first step in good matzoh balls. But, ultimately, the end product is more of an art than a science. Eggs vary in size and absorption, and individual tastes vary between craving featherlight "floaters" or toothsome "sinkers." I favor something in between. It might take a few tries to find the perfect matzoh ball for you. But it's a pretty delicious process.
Manny's Matzoh Balls
adapted from Emanuel Prichep
yields enough balls for a large pot of soup
1/2 cup neutral oil, like canola
~3/4-1+ cups matzoh meal
1/2 tsp baking powder
~1 tsp salt
a handful chopped parsley
Whisk together the eggs and oil. Add as much matzoh meal as needed to make a texture somewhat like thick mud -- you want it to be just a bit too soft to mound on a spoon. If you favor firmer matzoh balls, add enough matzoh meal so that it is almost scoopable. The mixture will firm up upon standing. Stir in the baking powder, salt, pepper, and chopped parsley. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed (it should be fairly salty). Chill for 10 minutes.
While the matzoh ball mixture is chilling, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Check the chilled mixture -- if it's not firm enough to just scoop after resting, add more matzoh meal. Shape matzoh balls of your desired size with a small ice-cream scoop, two oiled spoons, or oiled hands, and plop them directly in the simmering water. Turn the heat down just enough to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally to rotate, for at least 30 minutes. Take a ball out of the pot and cut open, checking to see if the center is fully cooked, and no longer of a discernably different texture. Scoop out into a bowl, top with broth (preferably with carrots, parsnips and a bit of fresh dill), and serve.