There are two types of cooks when it comes to Passover.
There are those who scramble through recipes and old notes trying to recreate the Passovers of their childhood, and serve the same traditional dishes each year.
Then there are those who want their seder meal to be modern and sophisticated. They watch food shows on television and browse through gourmet cookbooks for inspiration and to see what can be converted to a Passover recipe.
Whichever type of cook you are, there is one indisputable dish that will be on almost everyone’s menu – the pièce de résistance of the seder table: chicken soup with matzah balls, like your bubbie made.
BUBBIE’S MATZAH BALL SOUP
When buying chicken to make soup, it’s preferable to use large chickens because they are meatier.
4-5 lb. chicken and bones cut into eight pieces
1 or more turkey necks
16 cups water
1 large onion peeled and cut in half
2 stalks of celery, cut in 1/2-in. pieces
1 small parsnip root, peeled
1 small celery root, peeled and cut into quarters
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4- to 1/2-in. rounds
5 garlic cloves
1/2 bunch fresh parsley
1/2 bunch fresh dill
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
Wash the chicken pieces and turkey necks and place in a large stockpot. Add all vegetables and top with water. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and skim. Let simmer, half-covered, for about 2 hours. For best results and a clear, flavourful broth, do not let the soup boil at any time. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8-10.
Serving Tips: Cool down before refrigerating. Before reheating, skim all the fat from the top and discard. The soup can be served with or without the vegetables. I like to pass the vegetables and necks separately and let guests serve themselves.
If you end up with leftover matzah balls they’re delicious sautéed in oil with browned onions and served as a side dish.
1 cup water
1/2 cup margarine or vegetable oil
1 cup matzah meal
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
pinch of white pepper
In a saucepan bring water and margarine to a boil. While still on the flame, carefully add matzah meal and salt and mix together to make a paste (about 1 minute). Cool down to a temperature comfortable to the touch.
Add eggs one by one (if the mixture is too hot, the eggs will coagulate), mixing after each addition until eggs are completely incorporated (this step can be done with an electric mixer).
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. With wet hands, shape mixture into balls and drop into boiling water. (Make balls smaller than desired since they will almost double in size while cooking.)
Boil for about 45-50 minutes until the balls float, removing with a slotted spoon. Makes about 24.
A delicious appetizer or side dish for the modern seder table. Serve on matzah.
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
2 tbsp. hot water
1/4 cup kosher dry red wine
1 lb. mixed wild mushrooms such as oyster, cremini and shiitake
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. pepper, or to taste
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Combine vegetable oil and onion in a wide skillet. Cook over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Combine dried mushrooms with hot water and red wine. Allow to soak a few minutes until soft, then drain and chop mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid.
Chop the fresh wild mushrooms. Add to onion mixture. Add chopped porcini mushrooms and cook on high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add reserved soaking liquid. Cook another minute or so.
Purée in a blender. If blend is too dry, add a little more wine. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice. Serve with matzah. Makes about 1 cup.
And for the vegetarians or those looking for healthy dishes…
WHOLE GRAIN MATZAH KUGEL
3 whole-grain or whole-wheat matzot
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped black walnuts or English walnuts
4 apples, shredded (use a combination of granny smith and golden delicious)
1/3 cup orange juice
3 to 4 tsp. cinnamon sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 350. Break matzot into pieces. Soak in warm water until soft, but still with a little “bite,” like al dente pasta (about 2 minutes). Drain.
Beat eggs. Add sugar, salt and cinnamon. Stir in matzah. Add raisins, nuts and apples. Pour into greased 9×13-in. baking pan. Drizzle orange juice over top. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Drizzle with oil. Bake for 45 minutes or until browned. Let sit for a few minutes before cutting. Makes 8 servings.