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A foolproof matzo ball soup from my Grandma’s recipe book to you

This Jewish chicken soup is the best medicine to heal sickness or a bad day

Every Friday night of my adolescence was spent enjoying an informal but delicious Shabbat dinner at my Grandma Charlotte’s house. Her table was always set with Challah bread, fresh fruit, baked salmon and the best matzo ball soup I’ve ever tried. I recently decided to try my hand at her recipe, and — with a few simple modifications — I’ve made a soup that is not only delicious but simple and foolproof. 

Prep time: 3 ½ hours (3 hours of simmering with little involvement) 

Ingredients

4 skin-on chicken thighs 

10 cups of cold water

Salt and pepper to taste

1 bunch of parsley leaves

1 bunch of dill leaves

1 large yellow onion

3/4 package of baby carrots

4 celery stalks

1 leek

Optional ingredients:

1 box of Manischewitz matzo ball mix

1 bag of egg noodles

Osem mini croutons 

Instructions:

  1. Begin by placing the four chicken thighs in a large soup pot and covering with about an inch of water. Swirl the chicken to clean and remove any extra fatty bits that come loose. Dump out the water and add 10 cups of cold — preferably filtered — water to the soup pot with the chicken thighs. 
  2. Bring the water and chicken to a boil over medium high heat — this may take a while since it’s such a large amount of water. You’ll see little bits of white scum and oil rising to the top, keep it boiling and keep stirring because you want to get all of this scum out of the chicken. The scum is harmless and essentially flavorless bits of protein from the chicken that come loose and denature as it heats on the stove. Stirring the pot agitates the chicken and promotes the release of this filmy layer so you can scoop it out. I take a big soup ladle and a heat-safe cup or mug and scoop the scum from the top layer broth regularly for 20-30 minutes. This is a time-consuming process, but it creates a delicious and completely home-made chicken broth that is better than anything from the store. 
  3. Once no more scum rises to the surface, you’ll know it's time to add the rest of your veggies. I like to prep my vegetables while my chicken thighs come to a boil to save some time. To my chicken stock I add one large yellow onion sliced into quarters, 3/4 of a bag of baby carrots, four sticks of celery that are washed and quartered, one large leek that is meticulously washed – dirt loves to hide near the center of the leek – with about an inch of each end trimmed off and quartered and a handful of fresh parsley and dill. Make sure you have a few sprigs of dill left over for serving. Stir the soup to combine and add a healthy amount of salt and pepper to taste. 
  4. Next cover your soup with a well-fitting lid and turn the temperature down to a low simmer. Let the soup simmer for three hours, stirring occasionally — around every 30 minutes. After an hour and a half I like to try the broth and determine if it needs any more salt or pepper. When three hours are up, take a strainer or ladle and remove all of the vegetables and chicken, leaving just the broth. Set aside the carrots and the chicken, shredding the chicken and removing the bones. The rest of the vegetables should be thrown away — most of their flavor has already infused into the soup and the texture after three hours of simmering is less than fantastic. 
  5. Chop up a few sprigs of the remaining dill and stir into the soup with another crack of pepper and any salt that is needed. At this point you can cook up your matzo balls or egg noodles according to package instructions if you want to add a bit more substance to your soup. I love serving this with a few carrots, a bit of chicken and a hefty pour of Osem mini croutons. The croutons sit on the soup like cereal and add a great texture to the warm soup with their salty crunch. 

Though making this soup takes a few hours of your day, the ingredients are easily accessible at any local grocery store. I love Harris Teeter for its reasonably priced produce, and it has ingredients like matzo ball mix, egg noodles and Osem croutons in its Kosher section.   

This soup can be dressed up or down for any occasion. I love having a bowl of broth with Osem croutons for an afternoon or midnight snack, a small cup with carrots and matzo balls to supplement my dinner or even just a mug full of broth to soothe a sore throat or stomach ache. 

This soup is easy to make, and it is sure to impress your friends and family with its ability to heal everything from the common cold to a broken heart. It keeps well in the fridge for up to 10 days and reheats in minutes. All the love it takes to make it is apparent in the delicious final product.

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