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Mar 20, 2018
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Vegetize It: All the soup, none of the schmaltz

March 25th 11:03am, 2013

The first (only) time I made matzo balls for my Jewish in-laws, Shiksa Dough Bombs of Doom dropped out of the pot. They were tough with gritty, uncooked centers that resembled the desert their people wandered for 40 years. Only drier.

Those concrete-filled matzo balls haunted me. But it’s a classic, nourishing dish that should be in everyone’s cooking repertoire, especially with matzo’s big week coming up (All hail Passover!), so I decided to try again. And this time, I’d make a healthier version without chicken broth and schmaltz (chicken fat).

My mother-in-law’s chicken broth is the pretty, translucent color of warm sunshine. My homemade vegetarian stock has a russet tone better suited to heavy stews. The color comes from slowly simmered vegetables, which also give it a hearty taste. Could I make a lighter-looking broth that wasn’t light on flavor?

First, I diced all of my vegetables into ¼-inch bits. The smaller the piece, the more flavor extracted. Then I sauteed the vegetables until they were soft, but not brown. I added some cold water and brought it to a boil.

Here’s what they don’t tell you on cooking shows: If you have a boiling pot of broth, and you add pepper to it, and you lean into the aromatic steam and inhale gloriously, you will get a snoot full of pepper. And if you have just used pungent white pepper instead of black because hey, that might taste good, you will cough so much that your abs hurt and it counts as your workout for the week. To add insult to eye-watering injury, a brief simmer yielded a light-colored, but weak-tasting broth. For flavor’s sake, browner was better.

Perhaps I’d have better luck duplicating my mother-in-law’s fluffy matzo balls. A little research suggested two tricks. One is to whip the egg whites before folding in the dry ingredients. The second is to use carbonated water instead of tap. Whipping the egg whites was easy, but my seltzer was flat (another thing that never happens on TV). Improvising, I used lime-flavored sparkling water – and it worked. The matzo balls were fluffy! Slightly tropical tasting, but fluffy!

I don’t really recommend lime-flavored matzo balls. But I do recommend facing your cooking disasters. It’s a marvelously heady feeling to overcome whatever obstacles a dish throws at your feet. Or up your nose.

Find Kellie’s recipe for Fearless Matzo Ball Soup here.

Find Kellie’s recipe for Fluffy Matzo Balls here.

— photo by Carmen Troesser


By Kellie Hynes

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