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Chicken-Vegetable Soup with Herbed Matzo Balls

Begin the Passover feast with this warming soup. By removing the skin from the raw chicken, you can serve the soup immediately after cooking. If you leave the skin on, refrigerate the soup overnight and lift off the layer of fat that accumulates. Then reheat the soup gently. If you prefer just a broth, strain the vegetables out and serve the broth with the matzo balls.

Matzo balls are delicious when made with rendered chicken fat, known as schmaltz. You can purchase it bottled or frozen, or you can render your own (see Note).

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken, 3 1/2 to 4 lb., cut into pieces, skin
      and fat removed and reserved for making
      schmaltz
  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into slices 1/2 inch
      thick
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into slices 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into slices 1/2 inch
      thick
  • 1 tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
  • 10 cups water, or as needed
  • Salt, to taste
  • 3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the matzo balls:

  • 1/4 cup rendered chicken fat (schmaltz)
      or vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup seltzer water or other sparkling water

Directions:

In a large pot, combine the chicken, onions, carrots, celery, parsnip, tomato and dill. Add enough water to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer, skimming periodically, until the chicken is cooked and the soup is full flavored, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove the chicken and reserve for another use. Season the broth with salt. Add the parsley and simmer for 1 minute. Keep warm over very low heat.

Meanwhile, make the matzo balls: In a bowl, whisk together the schmaltz and eggs. Add the matzo meal, parsley and salt and whisk to combine. Add the seltzer water and whisk until blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Using your hands, a tablespoon or a small ice cream scoop, shape the matzo mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls. Reduce the heat to medium-low and drop the balls into the barely simmering water. Cover the pot and simmer until the matzo balls are cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes.

Place a matzo ball in each soup bowl and ladle in the vegetable soup. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Note: To make schmaltz, dice the reserved chicken skin and fat into 1-inch pieces. Place in a heavy-bottomed fry pan over medium-low heat and cook, turning the skin and fat occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Make sure the pan never gets so hot as to cause the rendered fat to smoke. Let the fat cool, then pour it into a glass container and refrigerate; it will keep for 1 to 2 days refrigerated. The fat will harden, so when ready to use, place it in a small saucepan over medium heat and warm until softened.

Diane Rossen Worthington, Author, Seriously Simple (Chronicle Books, 2002).