Having been a resident of LA’s Westside for a good portion of my life, you could say I was influenced by a healthy dose of Jewish culture. No, really, it was awesome because you could totally walk down the street and think “Hmmm, gefilte or sushi for lunch today?” And stop at places that did BOTH. So I was totally excited when cim invited us to her Hanukkah dinner my first year living in Finland. She was all, “You can make something!” and I was like, “Sweet! I’m gonna make matzo balls!” Because I had (still do, actually) a serious hankering for the giant bowls of matzo ball soup I used to get from the delis for finals week or bad flu days.
Then I realized we are in Finland. 80% Lutheran Finland. If I wanted any matzo, I was going to have to make it myself or have it sent via mail order. While I probably will try to make it one day, I was on a deadline at the time and baking up a batch of the stuff just to crush it into pieces again wasn’t going to fit in my agenda. So I went with the compromise route and used… cream crackers. They’re made with yeast and bit on the buttery side, but we weren’t trying to strictly observe anything anyway.
And really, once you’ve solved the matzo problem, the rest is child’s play. I like using AR’s Oma’s Fabulous Matzo Ball Soup recipe as a base — it has consistently given me very fluffy balls ;-) Just look at how small that stack of ingredients is: 2 (10 ounce) packages crushed matzo crackers (or a suitable substitute), 1/2 cup butter (or margarine if you are observing some forms of kosher), 6 eggs, salt and pepper to taste, 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (or a heaping 1 tablespoon if using dried), and 96 ounces chicken broth (I use chicken stock from a cube if there’s no homemade broth left in the freezer). The recipe says that this will yield about 10 servings, but they must be using tiny bowls or something. I’d say closer to 6 by my count.
Hmmm. I just realized that my method departs quite a bit from the recipe, so I’m just going to go with what I did. Whisk eggs and melted butter together – dribble in the butter gradually if it is hot so it doesn’t cause the eggs to cook. Mix in salt, pepper and parsley. Slowly add crushed matzo — go cup by cup, mixing together as you go, until you get a paste-like consistency that’s a bit wetter than dough. It should be just enough matzo to hold everything together, but not so that a spatula can stick upright in it, if you know what I mean. Cover with plastic and let this sit in the fridge for an hour or so.
While the ball dough mixture is firming up, bring your chicken broth to a boil, then keep it at medium.
Now, you have to decide how big you want your balls. I usually use a large dinner spoon to scoop and end up with something about the size of a golf ball. They will expand considerable in the broth. Roll the dough into a ball with your hands — it helps if your hands are damp when you do this. Don’t squeeze, just roll lightly. You don’t want to compact the ball. If your dough starts to get too runny halfway through, just stick it back into the fridge for a while. Place the balls into the hot broth and let them cook. They should rise to the surface after a bit and stay solid. Mine pop up pretty fast. Like the recipe says, if the balls stay at the bottom, there’s too much matzo and you need to add another egg to that mixture. Cook until the balls have absorbed enough broth to look right. That is, fluffy and dumpling-like, rather than solid and doughy. They should at least double in size. This is usually a little after the 20 minute mark for me, but it varies by the batch.
Serve hot with chicken broth, shredded chicken meat and assorted chicken-soup-type root veggies, as you see fit. Since I use pre-seasoned stock cubes, it’s fast and easy to make a meal this way. I usually put at least two balls per bowl, but that’s really up to you. This freezes pretty well, too, so it’s nice to make some ahead of time to take to work. Which might be just what I’m doing this weekend.