Editor's Note: This story first appeared on Maplewood Patch on March 28, 2010.
I have now made my own matzoh ball soup twice and eaten it three times, ever. My first experience tasting the soup was at Eppes Essen Deli in Livingston. I and soon after. I took a friend who grew up eating the soup to guide me through the texture and taste of all the dishes we ate.
Once I made the soup my way, I contacted a neighbor here in Maplewood to give me honest, critical analysis of what he ate. He liked it—well, so did I but I wasn't sure if it was actually good. It was very helpful to get his feedback. I was told my broth was super flavorful and the matzoh balls were tender and not too dense.
The same neighbor invited us over for a seder to share with their family and other friends. Even though it was our first seder, I asked if I could bring something—and she suggested the matzoh ball soup.
My first thought was "wow, talk about pressure." Her mother-in-law, who has been hosting a seder for a very long time, was going to be there.
I took a deep breath and began the process of making the wonderful broth, which I feel is the heart of a delicious soup. A lot of aromatics went into the big pot including a whole onion, garlic, celery, dill, parsley, and of course the star—a whole chicken cut up. I cooked it for a while and took out the breast pieces to avoid over cooking. I shredded the chicken pieces and kept them aside. I let the rest cook for a few hours until the chicken was falling off the bone and all the vegetables were soft.
Since I am new to this soup, I consulted a few friends if I should make the matzoh balls from scratch or use a mix. The purist in me went out and bought the matzoh meal but then my friends convinced me to be practical and use the mix. Maybe next time I will make them from scratch.
This time I used the mix as well and added some flavoring to it. I grated a shallot and garlic and I also added some dill.
Overall, the soup came out really delicious. I promptly took it over to our neighbors and waited for a reaction. After we sat down for the seder and read the haggadah, we started our meal with the Gefilte fish and then the soup. Everyone loved it—including my neighbor's mother-in-law. I was thrilled and very honored to be able to be part of an old tradition. The afternoon turned into evening and we all enjoyed the meal and the company immensely.
I came out of the seder reassured that good food, wine and good people around you is all you need to live a long, happy life.
Try my soup and I hope all of you have a joyous Passover.
Matzoh Ball Soup With Dill
3-4 pounds whole chicken, the breast taken apart
1 large onion, cut into half
3 carrots, sliced
4 garlic cloves, with skin on
1 cup dill
In a large stockpot, add the chicken pieces, onion, carrots, garlic cloves and dill and cover it with about 4 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer removing the foam off the top periodically. Take the breast pieces out after about 15 minutes. Cook the rest on a simmer for 2 hours.
Cool the broth off and take the chicken pieces out. Shred the breast pieces including the rest and keep aside to add to the soup right before serving.
Strain the broth and smash all the vegetables with the back of a ladle and strain as well. Taste the broth and add salt if needed.
1 packet Manischewitz Matzo Ball Mix
Follow the recipe to make the matzoh balls. Also add the following:
1 small shallot, grated
1 garlic clove, grated
2 tablespoons dill, chopped fine
Mix the shallot, garlic and dill into the matzoh ball mix and cook according to the directions.
2 carrots sliced in rounds
2 teaspoons dill, chopped
1 cup shredded chicken
Bring the broth to a boil and add the carrots and chicken.
Add the cooked matzoh balls to the broth and taste for seasonings. Add the dill right before serving.
Monica Puri Bangia is a cooking coach who teaches in her Maplewood home and the South Orange Maplewood Adult School. She writes about food and ingredients including recipes for The Local as well as her own Sharing Plate blog where she posts mostly healthy, quick recipes for weeknight dinners. Puri Bangia also contributes kid friendly and healthy recipes to Kiwi magazine. For Patch, she will be reviewing local eating places and replicating dishes that she enjoys and including recipes that form in her head from time to time that may be relevant to you.