Matzo: Not to be Passed Over
I completed my doctorate degree at
Matzo, also spelled matzoh, but either way pronounced maatsa, is a flat, brittle unleavened bread. It is the traditional food of Passover. Passover is the Jewish holiday that celebrates the exodus and freedom of the Israelites from
Matzo meal is ground matzo. It is used for a variety of preparations including thickening soups, stuffings, cakes, breading foods, and latkes, the delicious Jewish potato pancakes. Matzo Brei is the equivalent of Jewish French toast or scrambled eggs depending on the technique you choose. The former is made by soaking matzo in water, dipping it in egg and then pan-frying it. Like French toast, it is sweetened with sugar or honey and served with syrup. The latter combines the soaked matzo (sometimes in milk instead of water), with beaten egg and then cooked like scrambled eggs.
And that brings us back to my favorite; namely matzo ball soup. Matzo balls are made from matzo meal, eggs, some form of fat, and seasonings. They are then served in chicken broth to complete the soup. Although water can be used they taste best when simmered in the chicken broth they are to be served in.
An ongoing matzo ball debate is whether the balls should be “floaters”, (light and fluffy) or “sinkers” (heavier and firm). An even greater debate is the deliberation over which techniques to employ to create floaters and sinkers. After perusing many websites and discussing the issue with other food writers and Jewish cooks, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no consensus of opinion. For sinkers recommendations include chilling the mixture for less time, using more eggs, reducing cooking time, increasing the amount of matzo meal, and intermittently leaving the lid open during cooking. For floaters the advice runs the gamut of rapidly beating the egg, separating the eggs and beating the whites, mixing the eggs into the meal gently, and adding seltzer to the mix.
I did try the seltzer approach and produced a meal so loose that it would not even form balls let alone floaters. With the exception of the seltzer technique I have not tested all the different permutations, nor am I inclined to. I like sinkers and my recipe below is sure to give you little Titanics. My recipe adds more egg, and particularly egg yolk to the traditional mix. Although I prefer heavier matzo balls, what I’m really after is a richer taste. The yolks do both however. Egg yolks which are higher in fat, not only add more flavor, but also contain lecithin, a natural emulsifier. The extra lecithin intensifies the binding of the ingredients and hence the heftiness of the matzo balls.
MARK’S MATZO BALL SOUP
1 cup matzo meal
4 egg yolks
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (or for the best flavor, chicken fat)
Chopped parsley to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Chicken broth, as needed
Mix all the ingredients except the broth and rest for one hour in the fridge. Form into balls the size of your choice. Bring an ample amount of chicken broth to a simmer and cook them, covered, for 30 minutes. The balls will absorb some of the broth so use more than what appears necessary. You also need enough broth left over for the final soup. Finish with some chopped parsley and salt and pepper.