Soup with Matzo Balls, or Cream of Wheat Dumplings

Soup with Matzo Balls, or Cream of Wheat Dumplings

Based on (ATK) America's Test Kitchen's Cooks' Country, April/May 2015, Serves 6 to 8 

The first time I made this soup I did not have matzo meal, so I made it with traditional Hungarian "Cream of Wheat" dumplings. Am including both options. Note that the timing / process is different for each.

  • With Matzo: (there are various spellings - matzo, matza, matzah...) matzo had to be prepped first (making, refrigeration is 1.5-2.5 hours;  cooking matzo balls is another 30 minutes). While uncooked matzo balls are sitting in fridge, soup can be made (takes about an hour); thus shortest time needed for the entire thing is about 2.5 hours. 
  • With "Cream of Wheat": make soup, while soup is cooking (about 45 minutes), prep dumplings; they get dropped into the soup and will eventually float to the top. Fifteen minutes after the drop they should be cooked through, so total time is about 1 hour.

ATK's online recipes offer versions of this soup different than what appears in the recent publication. Even they acknowledge that there are many variations to this soup. The recipe I focused on included transferring things from one pot to a saucepan and so on - I didn't do that, but bottom line is that two pots are needed - either two Dutch ovens, or one Dutch oven and one soup pot - or some similar combo. 

Also noteworthy - the soup and matzo balls can be fully cooked, cooled and stored in the fridge separately in covered containers for up to 2 days. Reheat soup on medium heat and add matzo balls until heated through - about 7 minutes.

1/4  cup chicken fat (schmaltz) or duck or goose fat
1 onion chopped fine
4  large eggs

5  TB water
1 tsp minced fresh dill
1  cup matzo meal
3/4 tsp salt
1/2  tsp black pepper 

Matzo Balls. Heat fat in Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until light golden brown and softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer onion to large bowl and let cool for 10 minutes. Do not clean pot - their idea is to use this pot again later to cook the matzo balls. The water added to the pot to do this will be thus nicely flavoured from the fat and onion cooking stage.

Whisk eggs, water, dill, salt and pepper into cooled onion mixture. Fold in matzo meal until well combined. Consistency will be loose - will thicken as it sits. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours. See cooking instructions below.

Meanwhile make soup....

1 tablespoon chicken fat or duck or goose fat
1 onion chopped
2 carrots peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
2 celery ribs chopped
1 parsnip peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
8 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 lbs (680 grams) chicken leg quarters
1 tsp minced fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste

Soup. Heat fat in Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrots, celery, parsnips (and 1/2 tsp salt*) and cook, covered, until vegetables begin to soften - about five minutes. Add broth, chicken and dill and bring to gentle boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until chicken is tender 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer chicken to plate. Chicken can be used for soup or reserved for another use. If adding to soup, shred by hand or with two forks into bite-size pieces, discarding skin and bones. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste.

Carefully transfer cooked matzo balls to hot soup along with shredded chicken.

Last stage...

So, about an hour has elapsed and the soup is "ready". The chicken can be removed, allowing it to cool a bit before shredding it in readiness for return to soup. Matzo has firmed up in the fridge and can be formed into balls and cooked.

Cooking Matzo Balls. Bring 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt to boil. Divide batter into 12 portions (about one heaping tablespoon each) and place on greased plate. Roll portions into smooth balls between wet hands and return to plate. Transfer matzo balls to boiling water, cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until tender and cooked through about 30 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove one matzo ball, cut in half and check for doneness. The matzo ball is done when the inside is not dark or wet. If necessary, cook 5 to 10 additional minutes, or until the color is uniform throughout and the texture is light and fluffy. When done, using a slotted spoon transfer matzo balls to colander and drain briefly. Transfer balls to clean plate and let cool to firm up - about 10 minutes. Carefully transfer matzo balls to hot soup along with shredded chicken if using.

Cream of Wheat Dumplings.  in Hungarian these are called griz galuska or gomboc. In my experience they are always made with 'Cream of Wheat" though research for this revealed that sometimes they are made with wheat hearts, wheatlets, wheat farina or semolina. Are they all the same? Not sure, but I guess they all do the job.

1 egg
5 TB Cream of Wheat 
1 teaspoon cooking oil (I use duck fat) 
1/8 tsp salt 

Beat the egg and salt. Since I use duck fat, and I zap it for 10 seconds in the microwave to make it easier to beat/whip it into the egg mixture. Use a fork to stir in the Cream of Wheat. Assuming I am going to use it soon, I let stand for 30 minutes on the counter - it will thicken. (If using a it later, then refrigerate.) Drop into soup by the teaspoonful. They will enlarge to tablespoon size.  The soup should be on gentle boil. Fast boiling will knock the dumplings apart.

Notes and Tips...

  • My favourite variation uses the duck fat and Cream of Wheat dumplings.
  • Fat -  if schmaltz not available, use goose or duck fat; recipe says vegetable oil can be used, but I think there'd be a flavour loss. 
  • Cooled onions - if they are too warm they might cook the eggs when added.
  • Salt - when making soup, do not add salt unless the chicken broth is sodium reduced. Salt can be added at the end if necessary / desired.
  • Matzo Meal - Manischewitz is a common brand. They also make a Matzo Ball Mix - it has seasonings added - I should think it would work just as well, but then take care re additional salt.
  • Soup veggies - can be prepped ahead, but if so, cover parsnips with water to prevent discolouration.

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