Don’t you think that the dumplings sold in delicatessens look like they should be shot out of a cannon? Avoid trying to make matzo balls look so perfectly round. Some of their charm is a homemade look. For the most delicate texture, mix the batter with a gentle hand and don’t open the pot while simmering. Matzo meal is available in all well-stocked supermarkets. Many markets sell tubs of rendered chicken fat. If so, buy a tub or two and, although it’s not essential, I always melt it down with minced yellow onions, to make it incredibly savory in both aroma and flavor. If your market doesn’t sell chicken fat, each time you roast a chicken, pull any wads of fat out of the cavity and snip them into smallish pieces, using kitchen scissors, and store them in a doubled freezer bag. (Do this with any extra flaps of skin, as well, and add this to the bag.) When you’ve accumulated a stash of at least 2 cups, then render the fat down, as directed in the recipe.
For the matzo balls
- 2 tablespoons rendered chicken fat (see recipe)
- 4 tablespoons minced scallions (green onions), trimmed white part and 1 1/2 to 2 inches of the tender green
- 6 extra-large eggs
- 1/3 cup solid vegetable shortening, melted
- 1 3/4 cups plus 1 rounded tablespoon matzo meal
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus salt for the water
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 generous tablespoon minced flat-leaf Italian parsley
- 3/4 cup seltzer water (still fizzing)
To Make Rendered Chicken Fat
Jewish kosher cooking traditionally uses chicken fat (schmaltz) instead of butter when cooking meat, since mixing dairy and meat products is a definite no-no. Many markets sell tubs of rendered chicken fat. If so, buy a tub or two and, although it’s not essential, I always melt it down with minced yellow onions, to make it incredibly savory in both aroma and flavor.
If your market doesn’t sell chicken fat, each time you roast a chicken, pull any wads of fat out of the cavity and snip them into smallish pieces, using kitchen scissors, and store them in a doubled freezer bag. (Do this with any extra flaps of skin, as well, and add this to the bag.) When you’ve accumulated a stash of at least 2 cups, then render the fat down by cooking in a skillet with some minced yellow onion (over low heat) until all the fat has melted and, the onions are golden and the pieces of skin become crisp (called Gribenes). Strain the liquid fat through a fine sieve placed over another bowl. Either discard the onions and gribenes or use them in another recipe. Rendered chicken fat can be stored in the freezer for at least 6 months, in a securely covered plastic tub. To use, chip off pieces of frozen fat, using a knife, and melt it down in a pan before adding to your recipe. Put the remaining fat back in the freezer.
Gribenes (cracklings) are bits of chicken skin that are fried crisp during the rendering process. These small, crunchy treats add intense flavor to breads and also make a delicious garnish for chopped chicken liver. (To add them to yeast breads, knead some crisp gribenes into the dough after the first full rise.)
To prepare the matzo ball mixture and chill
Melt chicken fat in an 8-inch skillet over medium heat. When hot, add minced scallions, lower heat and cook until softened and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside to cool. Lightly beat eggs in a medium-sized mixing bowl and add all of the remaining ingredients along with sautéed scallions. Combine mixture gently but thoroughly, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and as long as overnight.
To set up and shape matzo balls
Bring an 8-quart pot of water to a boil. Line a shallow baking sheet or tray with waxed paper. Using a medium or large ice cream scoop, scoop out the chilled matzo batter, releasing each portion into your hand. Round out the shape a bit, using a gentle hand, and lay each round on the prepared sheet.
To cook matzo balls
Add some salt to the boiling water, ease the matzo balls into the pot and immediately cover (if the lid has vents, make sure they are completely shut). Reduce the heat to low and simmer the dumplings very gently for 20 minutes without disturbing or peeking (no, not even once!). Then uncover pot and, if using a blanching pot, simply lift out the strainer along with the cooked matzo balls. If using a regular pot, remove the balls with a slotted spoon but be careful not to sever them since they are very tender. When first cooked, the matzo balls might seem to be too soft. This is deliberate since they will firm up when they sit in the pot of hot chicken soup before serving.
Timing is Everything
The matzo ball mixture can be made 1 day ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator; then form into balls, just before cooking.
Matzo balls can be fully assembled and simmered up to 2 days ahead and kept submerged in chicken stock in the refrigerator.
Any leftover soup and matzo balls can be frozen together in securely covered heavy-duty freezer containers for several months. (Be sure to label the containers with both the date and contents.) Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat very gently.