Have yourself a matzo ball - just the floaters, please

St. Louis Post-DispatchApril 8, 2014 

Passover is about joyous celebration and somber remembrance, but mostly it’s about the matzo balls.

The eight-day Jewish holiday begins at sundown April 14 with seder, a feast that involves retelling the biblical story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, where they had been kept as slaves. They left in such a rush, bread didn’t have a chance to rise.

To remember that hurried flight to freedom, Jews during Passover traditionally refrain from eating bread that has risen. In its place, they eat matzo, a cracker-like food made from flour and water and that has been cooked so quickly it has not had a chance to rise.

Matzo balls are one of the unofficial joys of the Passover Seder. There are (almost) as many ways to make them as there are people who eat them, but all the possibilities boil down to one essential question: How did your mother or grandmother make them?

By and large, matzo ball fans are divided into two camps. One prefers the balls to be light and airy, floating on the chicken soup in which they are served; they are colloquially known as “floaters.” The other group likes the balls to be chewy but dense, lying gracelessly on the bottom of the bowl; these matzo balls are known as “sinkers.”

I’m in the floater camp. Why would you want to eat anything that can be described as “leaden”?

My theory is that people who prefer sinkers had mothers or grandmothers who did not know how to make them light and airy. Or perhaps their mothers and grandmothers had mothers and grandmothers who did not.

Fluffy Matzo Balls

Adapted from Ina Garten, via Food Network.

4 extra-large eggs, separated

4 1/2 cups good chicken stock, divided

1/4 cup rendered chicken fat, melted, or 1/4 cup vegetable oil (see note)

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for egg whites

1 cup matzo meal

Chicken soup, for serving

WHISK together egg yolks, 1/2 cup stock, chicken fat or oil, parsley and salt. Stir in the matzo meal. Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff (it is faster to use a mixer with a whisk attachment). Whisk the whites, a cup at a time, into the matzo mixture until it is smooth. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes, or until mixture is stiff.

FORM balls the size of golf balls by shaping them with 2 spoons, rolling them with your hands (rinse your hands in cold water after every couple of balls to prevent sticking) or scooping them with a small ice cream scoop.

BRING remaining 4 cups stock to a simmer. Drop balls into stock and simmer 30 minutes or until fully cooked and puffed, turning once. Remove and serve hot in chicken soup.

NOTE: Rendered chicken fat, also called “schmaltz,” is available in the frozen kosher foods section of some well-stocked grocery stores.

Per ball: 135 calories; 7g fat; 2g saturated fat; 75mg cholesterol; 6g protein; 12g carbohydrate; 2g sugar; 0.5g fiber; 320mg sodium; 15mg calcium.

Yield: About 12 matzo balls.

Stuffed Matzo Balls

From Bon Appetit and OUkosher.org.

Matzo balls:

4 large eggs

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup matzo meal

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

1/3 cup club soda


1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 large clove garlic, minced

3/4 cup finely diced cooked chicken, about 3 1/2 ounces

1 large egg

1/4 teaspoon sage

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

MATZO BALLS: Whisk together the eggs and oil in a medium bowl until blended. Mix in matzo meal and salt. Add club soda and blend well. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Can be prepared 1 day ahead.

STUFFING: Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Saute onion and celery until soft, about 3 minutes. Add parsley and garlic and saute 1 minute. Transfer to a food processor. Add chicken, egg, sage, salt, nutmeg and pepper; grind to a coarse paste. Transfer stuffing to a small bowl. Stuffing can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead if covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated.

COVER baking sheet with plastic wrap; lightly coat wrap with oil or nonstick spray. Using moistened hands, roll matzo mixture into 12 (1 1/2-inch) balls and place on prepared sheet. Make a deep hole in each ball and place about 1 teaspoon filling into each hole. Re-form balls, enclosing stuffing.

BRING a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Drop matzo balls into pot. Cover and cook until matzo balls are tender and cooked through, about 35 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to bowl. Can be prepared 1 day ahead, covered and refrigerated.

Pier ball: 125 calories; 7g fat; 1.5g saturated fat; 85mg cholesterol; 6g protein; 10g carbohydrate; 0.5g sugar; 0.5g fiber; 330mg sodium; 20mg calcium.

Yield: 12 matzo balls

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