When I was three years old my family moved to Rochester, New York, from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and found ourselves living next door to the most wonderful family ever. They welcomed us to the neighborhood and into their home, and 20 years later, they are as close to my family as any of my relatives.
Marilyn, Jim, and their daughter Johanna have always been my biggest fans. Every accomplishment I've ever made, they've been there, rooting me on. It's nice to have a support group that's only a few minutes away, and when my mother and I don't always see eye to eye (that only happens when Jupiter and Mercury are in alignment), it helps to have some adults take my side.
As my extended family is scattered up and down the East coast, my mother, sister and I would spend most of our holidays with Marilyn's family. I must have been very young when we spent our first Passover together because I don't remember eating matzo ball soup for the first time, but as far back as I can recall, it's always been my favorite food.
For a picky eater, one of your biggest concerns is getting enough to eat. If you're sitting at the dinner table and you don't like what's served to you, chances are you're going to be eating cereal again or going to bed hungry. I've never had that problem with matzo ball soup. Every year I eagerly anticipate stuffing my face with fluffy matzo balls until I have to unbutton my pants, and every year Marilyn has made the most incredible soup from scratch. She taught me how to make it years ago (it's easy!), and now I'm going to share it with you, so that you can make it yourselves!
To make chicken stock
you will need:
- a nice, plump chicken with some fat on it. It can be previously frozen, but your soup will be darker in color.
- 1-2 large sweet onions
- Around 4 carrots (peeled)
- the leafy tops from an entire bunch of celery PLUS 3-4 stalks
- 2-3 parsnips (peeled)
- fresh parsley
- at least a tablespoon of kosher salt
- around 20-30 whole peppercorns
Fill an 8-12 quart stock pot with cold water and add your ingredients. No need to cut the veggies, they'll start breaking down as they cook. Bring to a boil and skim the junk off the top. Then simmer partially covered for at least 3-4 hours. Strain the soup and throw away the vegetables, and use the chicken to make chicken salad or something similar. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
So there it is! The easiest, most deliciously authentic homemade chicken broth you can make. Obviously this isn't a recipe as much as a method, so feel free to substitute, add, subtract, and change it up until you find an approach that works with your personal tastes.
- add a beef bouillon cube for extra flavor
- throw in some dill
- add whole garlic cloves
- use fresh veggies at the end to make a chicken vegetable soup
- and experiment with what you add to it! Noodles, rice, matzo balls, chopped up chicken...this soup is a blank canvas for your creativity!
Or you could buy a box of matzo meal and whip up some delicious matzo balls, perfect for Passover, Rosh Hashanah, or whenever you crave these fluffy kosher dumplings (which for me is pretty much always).
The key to these is keeping your hands wet when you roll them out. I used a tablespoon to scoop them into evenly sized balls, and then you drop them into the boiling soup (or salted water), reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30-40 minutes. They will expand as they cook, and hopefully you'll end up with a pot of light and fluffy matzo balls to share and enjoy!
I don't know the physics behind matzo balls, but sometimes you'll end up with dense, heavy balls that just sit at the pit of your stomach for hours. Some people actually prefer these "sinkers," but I've always liked the "floaters," better. Easier for me to eat more of them 🙂
I'm so excited that I can recreate Marilyn's amazing soup all by myself, because it means that now I can indulge in my favorite passover treat more than once or twice a year. But it sure helps you move quickly through a seder when you know there's matzo ball soup waiting for you on the other end!
Marilyn has taught me that you have to make this soup with love. So Marilyn, Jim, and Johanna, thank you for all the love you've given me these past 20 years. You've made a remarkable difference in my life, and I think this soup is a perfect representation of my growth as a person and as a cook, and I thank you for sharing it with me. <3