Though my Grandma Snazzy, my mother’s mother, seemed to barely eat a thing (to this day, I am convinced she subsisted on toast and coffee), she was a wonderful Jewish home cook. One of her specialties was chicken soup, which she lovingly made from scratch for Friday night dinners and Jewish holidays. Loaded with carrots and tender poached chicken, it was simple yet deeply delicious, and I looked forward to it all week long. Today I make my own Grandma Snazzy Soup, adding a few twists of my own. One slurp of this hearty hodgepodge instantly conjures up memories of being surrounded by family, being nurtured and loved. A comfort food powerhouse, it’s sure to nourish and invigorate you.
Note: This soup can be made up to 3 days ahead.
For the chicken and stock:
- 1 (4- to 5-pound) whole chicken, thighs and breasts separated
- 4 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
- 4 medium celery ribs, coarsely chopped
- 2 medium yellow onions, cut into wedges
- 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
- 8 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
For the matzah balls:
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) or canola oil
- 3 Tbsp club soda
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill, plus for serving
- 1 cup matzah meal
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Half a lemon (optional), for serving
- For the chicken and stock: Combine all the chicken and stock ingredients in a large stockpot. Add 3 1/2 quarts water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook until the chicken breasts are cooked through, about 20 minutes.
- Transfer breasts to a plate. Let cool slightly, then remove the meat from the bones and set aside. Return the bones to the stock. Continue to simmer, skimming foam from the surface occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by one-third, about 2 hours. Meanwhile, shred the breast meat and refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.
- Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Carefully pull out carrot and celery pieces, rinse them gently if needed, and refrigerate in a covered bowl until ready to use. Pick through and shred the dark meat, then refrigerate with the breast meat. You should have about 4 cups meat and 10 cups stock. (The stock, chicken and vegetables can be made ahead and refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 1 month.)
- For the matzah balls: In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, schmaltz, club soda, and dill. Stir in the matzah meal, baking powder, 2 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Refrigerate uncovered, at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
- Bring a large Dutch oven or wide, heavy pot of well-salted water to a boil. Scoop out the matzah ball mixture, one tablespoon at a time and, using wet hands, gently roll into balls. Add the matzo balls to the boiling water, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cover and simmer until the matzah balls are plump, cooked through, and begin to sink to the bottom of the pot, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the heat. The matzah balls can be kept in the pot of warm water, covered, until ready to serve.
- To make the soup: While the matzah balls are simmering, warm the stock in a large pot and season with salt and pepper. Slice the carrots and celery into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the soup. Add 2 cups shredded white and/or dark chicken meat and simmer to warm through, about 2 minutes. (Reserve the remaining chicken to use in salads, pastas, or other dishes.) Ladle the soup, with chicken and vegetables, into bowls. Using a slotted spoon, transfer a matzo ball or two into each bowl. Top with a pinch of dill, and a squeeze of lemon, if desired.