A version of this soup, made with a whole duck and served with seasonal vegetables, is served at Saba in New Orleans, LA and Safta in Denver, CO. The soup also translates well for a home cook and is perfect for Passover, or anytime you want an extra-special, homemade soup with matzah balls.
For the soup:
- 1 duck (5 to 6 pounds)
- 3 pounds chicken feet
- 1 gallon plus 3 quarts water, divided
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Morton kosher salt, divided
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 8 whole allspice berries
- 2 star anise pods
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorn
For the matzah balls:
- 1 ⅓ cups matzah meal
- ¾ teaspoon onion powder
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ cup schmaltz (recipe below) or ghee, melted
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 quart lightly packed fresh arugula
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Best quality extra-virgin olive oil
- To make the soup: Lay the duck on a cutting board, breast side up, with the legs facing you. Discard the giblets and neck, or save them for another use. With your knife angled toward the body, cut through the seam between the thigh and the breast. Once you hit the hip joint, pop it loose with your hands, and slice through it to separate the legs.
- Keeping your knife very close to the bone so you don’t waste any meat, carve along either side of the breastplate and the ribs to remove the meat. Pull the wings taut, away from the body, and cut through the ball joint that attaches each of them to the breast (pop it with your hands, as you did the hip joint, if you have trouble getting through). Set the legs and wings aside to come to room temperature (you’ll be cooking them in about 1 hour) and refrigerate the breasts.
- In a large stockpot, combine the duck’s carcass with the chicken feet and 1 gallon water over high heat. Once the water is simmering, reduce the heat to medium and skim away any foam. Continue to simmer, skimming frequently, for about 10 minutes, until you’ve removed as much of the foam as you can.
- Add the onion, carrot, celery, thyme, 1 tablespoons of salt, and all the spices. Gently simmer, uncovered, for about 1 ½ hours, until the chicken feet have softened but are not falling apart and all the aromas in the broth are coming together. Decrease the heat a bit if the stock is bubbling too rapidly.
- Submerge the duck legs and wings in the stock, and cook for another 75 to 90 minutes, until the meat is pulling away from the bone (the wings may fall apart). Pull them out and reserve, then add the duck breasts to the stock and cook for just another 15 minutes or so, until they’re firm to the touch and no longer pink in the center. Reserve with the rest of the meat, and remove the pot from the heat.
- Once the duck meat is cool enough to handle, trim away and discard all the skin and any remaining fat. Slice the breast against the grain, and then cut it into bite-sized pieces; pull the meat off the legs and wings, and roughly chop it. Store all the duck meat in the refrigerator until the soup is ready.
- Strain the duck stock, reserving the solids, and allow the stock to cool. You’ll see some fat rise to the top, which adds flavor and body, but you can skim away some or all of it. While it’s cooling, make the second stock: Add all the solids to a separate wide pot or Dutch oven, which you’ll later use to cook the matzah balls, and cover them with 3 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium, and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes, until it’s fragrant and tastes well-seasoned.
- While the second stock simmers, make the matzah balls: In a large bowl, combine the matzah meal, onion powder, garlic powder, and remaining 2 tablespoons of salt. Separately, beat the schmaltz and eggs together, and then add them to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined, with no dry pockets of matzah meal. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the dough, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.
- Strain the second stock (discard exhausted-looking solids), and either store it for later use or, if you are finishing the recipe now, return it to the same wide pot and bring it up to a simmer over medium heat.
- Roll the chilled matzah-ball dough into tablespoon-sized balls, and as soon as you shape them, drop them into the second stock; they should float in a single layer with a bit of room between them (they will expand as they cook). Leaving the heat on medium, partially cover the pot to cook for about 1 hour. The matzah balls are done when they’re the same color throughout; if you cut one open, it should have the same texture as pound cake. Cover, and remove the pot from the heat while you assemble the soup.
- Put the duck stock back in your large pot, and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, and immediately add the duck meat, tomatoes, arugula, and lemon juice.
- To serve: Place a couple of matzah balls at the bottom of each bowl, the ladle the soup over it. (The broth you used to cook the matzah balls can be discarded.) Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.