This chicken and kneidlach (AKA matzah balls) casserole is my mother-in-law’s creation, invented as an alternative to the sacks of potatoes consumed throughout Passover. It’s my husband’s favorite thing to eat, so we usually eat it on seder night and again in February, to celebrate his birthday. I think of it as an Ashkenazi take on chicken and dumplings. It’s rich and hearty and an easy way to feed a crowd — serve with a lemony salad or just-tender steamed greens, for a much-needed fresh snap.
This dish, a reimagining of her mother’s matzah ball soup, speaks to my mother-in-law’s culinary creativity, which I’ve always admired. Her recipes are ever-evolving depending on the ingredients she has to hand, or simply what she fancies eating that day. So you, too, should feel free to play with this recipe. One easy way is to add other seasonings along with the tomato paste in Direction 4, such as teaspoon of smoked paprika, Aleppo pepper, baharat spice blend or fresh thyme. And while we non-Americans prefer mini matzah balls, you can make them as big as you like.
Note: You can make and roll the matzah balls ahead of time, freeze them, then defrost the morning you plan to make this dish.
For the matzah balls:
- 3 eggs, mixed with a fork
- 2 cups matzah meal
- ¼ cup neutral oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1¼ cups seltzer water
For the casserole:
- 1 large whole chicken, cut into 6-8 pieces
- 1 onion
- 4-5 garlic cloves
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2-3 Tbsp oil
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- Mix all the matzah ball ingredients and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large heavy-bottomed casserole dish or Dutch oven over medium heat. Meanwhile, thinly slice the onion and crush the garlic cloves. Add the chicken, skin-side down, to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and fry for 5 minutes, or until the skin is golden. Then turn the chicken pieces, season again, and fry for another 2 minutes. Remove the chicken to a large plate and set aside.
- Add the onion and a pinch of salt to the pot and fry for 8-10 minutes until golden-brown. Then add the garlic, fry for 2 minutes, and add the tomato paste (and any spices/seasonings you fancy), frying for a further 1 minute. Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Turn the heat to low. Return the chicken (and any juices) to the pot and add enough water to just cover it. Cover the pot and cook on a low simmer for 1-1½ hours, until the chicken is tender.
- Meanwhile, bring a big pan of salted water to a boil and shape the matzah ball mix into 25-30 small balls, about a small ice cream scoop’s worth of mixture per ball, or ½ Tbsp. Turn the heat down to low, and simmer the matzah balls for 30 minutes. Remove when fluffy and just cooked through.
- When the chicken is tender, add the matzah balls to the casserole dish, cover, and cook on low heat for a further 15 minutes.