Recipe: Four-Star Matzo Ball Soup
2 tablespoons schmaltz
½ Spanish onion, cut into small dice
¼ cup matzo meal (or 2 squares of matzo, well pulverized in a food processor)
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons chicken stock or water, plus additional for simmering
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Spanish onion, cut into small dice
2 celery stalks, cut on the bias into 1/4-inch slices
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
Kosher salt to taste
1½ quarts chicken stock or consommé
½ cup gribenes (see note)
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Make the matzo balls: Heat the schmaltz in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat, add the onion and a three-finger pinch of salt, and cook until the onion just begins to brown, about five minutes. Transfer the onion and fat to a plate to cool.
2. Combine the remaining ingredients, along with a four-finger pinch of salt, in a large bowl. Add the cooled onion and fat. Stir the mixture thoroughly until all ingredients are uniformly mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
3. With damp hands, form the matzo mixture into four balls, making them as big, smooth and round as pingpong balls. Place them in a saucepan of simmering chicken stock, cover the pan, and cook for 20 minutes. If you’re making the soup right away, keep the matzo balls in the stock, covered. If not, allow them to cool, wrap individually in plastic, and refrigerate.
4. Make the soup: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and ready an ice bath. When the water boils, add the onion and cook for 30 seconds. Scoop out the onion with a strainer and dip the strainer into the bowl of ice water, stirring the onion till chilled. Put it in a paper towel-lined bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Do the same with the celery. Do the same with the carrot, but cook the carrot for 60 to 90 seconds before removing it to the ice bath.
5. Bring the stock to a simmer. Taste, and season with salt if necessary. Heat your soup bowls in the oven or in a microwave. Reheat your matzo balls in stock if necessary (if you’re serving clarified stock, heat the matzo balls in separate stock or they can cloud the consommé).
6. Make a bed with the blanched onion in the center of each bowl; ring the carrot around the onion, and the celery around the carrot. Place a hot matzo ball on the onion. Add the piping hot stock or consommé to the bowl. Pouring the stock into the prepared bowls is especially dramatic to do at the table if you’ve taken the time to clarify the stock. Garnish the matzo balls with gribenes and parsley.
NOTE: Gribenes (pronounced GRIB-beh-ness) are the crispy bits of chicken skin cracklings produced in the making of schmaltz.
How to make schmaltz
You can make schmaltz with any amount of chicken skin and fat. Chop the skin and fat finely, to ensure better rendering:
1. In a frying pan over gentle heat, place chopped fat and skin in a small amount of water (about ¼ cup water to 2 cups skin and fat, or what is removed from eight chicken thighs).
2. Browning begins once the water and moisture have cooked off. This is when you add 1 Spanish onion, diced.
3 . The fat should be clear and yellow, not brown, so keep the heat low.
4. The brown bits of skin and onion are known as the gribenes. They will remain in your sieve as you strain off the fat. (Use a fine mesh sieve or straining cloth.)
5. Reserve the gribenes and strained fat separately — both can be kept in the fridge for about a week or in the freezer for about six months. This process will yield about ½ cup fat and ½ cup gribenes.
Adatpted by The Palm Beach Post from “The Book of Schmaltz,” by Michael Ruhlman (Little Brown, $25).