In a wonderful article in the New York Times this weekend, David Sax discusses the sanctity of matzah balls, but not just any matzah balls, the BEST matzah balls, which happen to be made with none other than GOOSE! Now, I did not grow up with a mother or grandmother who made the best matzah balls, or even remotely good matzah balls, so I feel no loyalty towards my own family’s recipe, which David points out is perhaps the only recipe that might come close to the recipe he uncovered in Budapest.
But as someone who constantly strives towards Jewish culinary perfection, I can attest to the virtues of using rendered fat to create the most flavorful and fluffy matzah balls. And I can also attest to the incredible flavor of goose – a few years ago I actually had the chance to cook a goose! I know there’s a joke in there somewhere…nevertheless, if you have the inclination (and the money – it is expensive) to special order a goose from your butcher, I promise you will not be disappointed. The meat was incredibly unique – both gamey and rich. And the quantity of rendered fat will leave your freezer, and your friends’ freezers, stocked for many, many months.
But in the meantime, I have used plain ‘ol chicken fat and even duck fat in matzah balls and been very satisfied with the flavor. Here are my tips to making the fluffiest matzah balls, which you can put to use trying David Sax’s recommendation for the best matzah balls!
As part of the 6th annual “Man-o-Manischewitz” Cook-Off, cooks from all over submitted thousands of recipes using Manischewitz products. And last week I got to attend the live kosher cook-off at the JCC of Manhattan!
Those who attended (including me!) got to taste the five final recipes, and then an esteemed panel of judges chose a winning dish. Highlight of the event: Chef Claire Robinson from The Food Network’s 5 Ingredient Fix was one of the judges, and I was pretty tickled to get to meet her!
The event was really organized and well-run, but I briefly forgot how pushy a crowd of Jews can be when there is food at stake. It was like being at a cousin’s bar mitzvah schmorg waiting for the meat carving station. After waiting for the line and pushiness to dissipate, I got to taste the dishes.
While the official winner of the event was Eric Silberman’s Mod Matzo Ball Soup, my own favorite was Andrew Dorsch’s Torte Vegetali.
You can read bios for all the finalists and try out their recipes here.
A little Manischewitz secret of my own: I only use their matzo ball mix in order to make my fluffy matzo balls! Why mess with a good thing!?
Stay tuned for the 2013 cook off next year and get ready to submit your best recipes.
I’ve had a number of friends come calling recently with questions about how to make light and fluffy matzah balls for chicken soup: a pretty important tool in a Jewish cook’s arsenal. I love making matzah balls, and I actually believe that it’s my Italian heritage that is the secret to my fluffy matzah balls. How so? I believe its all in the rolling technique, and I roll my matzah balls the same way I roll my meatballs.
I know there a lot of people who believe the secret to light matzah balls is seltzer, and I can say, this is not a bad way to go. But I advocate for a few simple steps to ensure the matzah balls of your dreams:
1) Cold water: Keep a bowl of cold water nearby as you prepare to roll your balls. In between rolling each ball, dip your hands in the water to keep your hands pliable and clear from getting sticky with matzo meal.
2) Chicken fat, not just for your bubbe: for me, chicken fat (or duck fat) is an essential kitchen item and I assure you, a little goes a long way. Whatever matzo ball recipe you use, substitute half the oil for chicken fat, and I am sure you will be delighted by the results.
3) The roll: How can I put this, um, delicately – balls should be handled with care and attention. When rolling the balls, please don’t pack down the suckers, or aggressively roll them together. Very lightly roll them in the palm of your hands until they are well formed into a ball and then leave them. A nice delicate touch goes a long way.