With cold and flu season just around the corner, now is a good time to break out the only sure-fire cure for what ails you.
No, not Nyquil. I’m talking, of course, about Matzo Ball Soup.
I first discovered this miracle cure back in the late 1980s, when a single bowl of this magical stew at Mort’s Deli under the L tracks on Wabash Avenue in the Loop almost immediately cleared up lingering cold symptoms I had been battling for a couple of days.
From that moment on, I was a believer.
Sadly, Mort’s has not survived. The spot is currently occupied by a Popeye’s Chicken. Some people call it progress!
(A quick side story: One Sunday morning back in the late ’80s, I was walking into the building where I worked as a news reporter when I heard gunshots coming from the parking garage that also housed Mort’s. Intrepid cub reporter that I was, I ran to the scene and called my city desk from a pay phone. Then I saw that the actor Robert DeNiro was firing a gun at a bunch of policemen. Holy smokes, I told my editor, this is a huge story! It was only then that I noticed the movie cameras and lights. They happened to be filming “Midnight Run” that morning. So much for my scoop!)
Some people claim the curative powers reside in the matzo ball itself, with its pinch of schmaltz, or chicken fat, and the seltzer water that gives this dumpling its lightness. Others argue that the rich vitamin and nutrient content of the chicken stock is responsible. I think it’s a perfect combination of both.
Which is not to say you have to be sick to enjoy Matzo Ball Soup. It’s light, delicate flavor is delicious anytime.
Making Matzo Ball Soup doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, whenever I make chicken stock I will freeze it for whatever cooking needs I have. It’s way cheaper than buying canned chicken broth. Making the matzo balls is simple and they also can be frozen.
Combine the two and it’s like chanting a magic spell. You will be healed. Also, sated with a delicious and inexpensive soup.
So this cold and flu season, don’t get caught off guard. Prep your chicken stock while you still feel well, and keep a lookout for a cannister of matzo meal at your local grocer. A lot of places will stock it only this time of year.
And if you see Robert DeNiro in a shootout with police, don’t call it in to your city desk. Unless you want to be made fun of. A lot. Forever.
Matzo Ball Soup
For the Chicken Broth
3-4 chicken backs, or 3 lb necks backs and wings
3 celery stalks, rough chop
3 carrots, rough chop
2 parsnips, rough chop
2 white or yellow onions, quartered
1 head garlic, cut in half horizontally
1-2 bay leafs
TBS whole black pepper corns
TBS sea salt
About 1-1/2 gallon water
Place chicken in stock pot and cover with about 4″ water. Bring to boil. Add remaining ingredients, being careful not to splash yourself with boiling water. Return to boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook 3-4 hours, uncovered, occasionally skimming the scum off the top.
Remove chicken and vegetables by pouring through a colander and cheesecloth (or a clean dish towel) into another large pot. Cool completely and skim fat before refrigerating or freezing.
For the Matzo Balls
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 beaten eggs
2 TBS schmaltz (rendered chicken fat, or you can use vegetable oil)
TBS sea salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
2 TBS seltzer water (or chicken stock)
Mix ingredients together in bowl until moist. Cover bowl in plastic wrap and refigerate 30 minutes to make dough more workable.
Fill large pot with water and bring to boil, then reduce to simmer.
Wet your hands under the faucet to make it easier to handle the dough. Form 1″ balls in the palm of your hand and roll into ball shape. Drop them one at a time into the simmering water. Cover the pot tightly and cook for about 35 minutes. The balls will expand to more than double their size as they cook. Remove and cool.
Assembling the Soup
Heat a little chicken stock in a sauce pan. Drop in 2-3 matzoh balls and cook about 5 minutes until heated through. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with a little chopped parsley or dill, if you have some lying around.
What other comfort foods do you crave when you are feeling under the weather? Share your ideas in the comments section below. And thanks for reading my blog!