Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chicken Soup With Matzo Balls

I hesitated to publish a recipe for chicken soup; after all it's not a difficult thing to make that requires a recipe. Much like spaghetti sauce I don't really have a set recipe for it, rather I toss it together with whatever I have on hand. Still, if you don't know where to begin, the tossing of ingredients is more difficult. Doing a quick search of the web, I noticed some people pre-sauté their chicken and vegetables. I don't do that. I also don't add star anise or fresh ginger. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it (sounds good to me) I just don't do it. This is simple food that I only make (predictably) when we're all miserably sick with colds.

I'm also not a food snob/purist. If your soup lacks strength go ahead and add a couple bouillon cubes-I won't rat you out.

My mother was a bit overboard in her pursuit of a chicken soup that was so light and clear and free of the tiniest fat globule that I swear it was almost colourless. She achieved this by cooking only the chicken and a bay leaf and adding cooked celery and carrots afterward. It was very light, clear soup-it also didn't have much flavour. I toss everything in the pot in a way that I'm sure would have horrified her. As for the fat, when the soup cools you can skim it right off the surface. As I remove the skin prior to cooking, there isn't much anyway. Speaking of that removed fat and skin-I was able to get just over ½ a cup of rendered chicken fat from my large package of chicken thighs. Throw it out if you must, but then don't come crying to me when you have no solid fat for your matzo balls…well you are going to make matzo balls, aren't you? Fine, recipe for rendering chicken fat and matzo balls will follow the soup.

Use whatever chicken is least expensive. Where I live thighs are less expensive than wings (a curiosity) and it is the part we prefer anyway. You can use a whole chicken as well, but it will work better if you cut it up.

For the Soup

2-3 pounds chicken, skins and fat removed
5 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, quartered
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2-3 sprigs parsley
2 bay leaves
Thyme, rosemary salt and pepper to taste
Water to cover

Toss it all in the pot. Cover with water and bring to a simmer, try not to boil as it will incorporate any fat into the soup (same principle as making stock). Start skimming. If you're using dried spices it might be better to add them later or tied in a bit of cheesecloth so you don't skim them away. No need to be fanatical about it, you can always add a bit more if you mess-up and forget.

Cover with the lid open about 2 inches. Simmer for about an hour-maybe two. You'll need to test. The carrots should be soft but the chicken shouldn't be cooked to death, as you still want to add it back to the soup. Keep it cooking at a slow simmer and you'll be fine.

Remove from heat. Drain, reserving vegetables and chicken, which you'll set aside to cool. Pull out as many of the carrots as you think still look decent and set them aside with the chicken. Toss the rest.

When cooled broth is de-greased add chicken and carrots back and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Cook your matzo balls and then add to soup. Serve hot.

To Render Chicken Fat:

Cut-up skins and fat into roughly 1-inch pieces and place in a heavy saucepan. Add about ¼ cup of water and set over medium heat. Stir occasionally and watch the heat-as the fat releases you will want to lower it to avoid scorching. Under no circumstances should you permit your spouse to eat the cracklings. If you must, overcook them to save the fools from themselves. Drain through a fine sieve and chill until solid.

To Make Matzo Balls:

2 tablespoons chicken fat (or vegetable oil)
2 eggs, beaten
1-teaspoon salt
½ cup matzo meal
2 tablespoons water or broth

In a bowl beat the fat with the eggs. Add the salt and matzo meal. Slowly add the water/broth until smooth. Cover and set in fridge for fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water.

With wet hands, form the balls (about a dozen) and drop them into boiling water. Cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook 3-40 minutes. Transfer to soup and serve hot.

Place the broth in a bowl or casserole and set in fridge to cool and de-grease. When chicken is cool, remove from bones and chop up for soup. Save out

No comments: