By popular request . . .
First thing you need to know: this isn’t easy. It’s not hard, either, particularly if you have any culinary skills. But it’s not the sort of soup you can whip up as an afterthought, nor will it soar without some TLC. Look, you’re making your own damn stock, okay? And you’re going to take pains to wring as much flavor as you can from each ingredient.
Let’s begin with the chicken.
If this were Facebook, I could convince you that the ability to read sideways makes you smarter than 98% of other humans. But this is old media. This is a BLOG. I expect you to be able to read sideways. And if you can’t cope with sideways photos, buh-bye. I’ll fix it later.
Back to cooking.
For your star attraction, use a dark meat like legs or thighs. Add some shredded breast meat at the very end if you must, but it’s not essential. We’re going for a whole-bodied flavor with this soup, not the runny blech that breast meat provides. You want flavor. Flavor = dark meat. And for your stock, use gizzards and hearts, or if you can find them, necks. I’ve used wings, too. I’ve even used chicken feet. It’s all good. Except for the breasts.
Next step, we’re going to brown our dark meat in the oven and our gizzards in the stock pot. Make yourself a nice flour-and-spice mixture. Easiest thing to do is to liberally salt and pepper your dark meat and gizzards, and then simply shake the various proteins in flour. Put your dark meat in a foil-lined casserole (spray it with Pam) and bake the shit out of it — 450F oven would not be unreasonable.
While your dark meat is browning, saute the gizzards and hearts . . .
. . . until they’re brown, too.
Meanwhile, prepare your vegies for the stock. You want the green, leafy bits of the celery, yellow onions WITH skin, garlic WITH its papery skin as well, and carrots unpeeled.
Put this in with the hearts and gizzards, then add water and whatever extras you have on hand: black peppercorns, sprigs of thyme, parsley, whatever you like, dear.
Bring to a boil and simmer for a good long time — at least two hours. Covered or uncovered, I don’t care, but you’ll be stirring occasionally. Soon, you’ll have this:
You’re going to sieve this carefully into a large bowl. Doesn’t matter if it cools down somewhat; you’ll be boiling it again soon enough.
Matzo balls, once mixed, need to sit in the fridge for 20 minutes to allow the dry ingredients to hydrate. Doing this step way in advance is a bad idea, since you’ll have rubbery balls. No one likes rubbery balls. You’re going to follow the recipe on your matzo meal container:
The recipe calls for matzo meal, salt, soup stock or water, two eggs, and vegetable oil. Use a relatively flavorless oil like corn or canola. I add freshly ground black pepper and finely diced parsley. If I really have my act together, I’ll have cooled some of my chicken stock; if not, I’ll use water. Don’t use hot chicken stock — it starts cooking the eggs, and you’ll get the dreaded rubbery balls. At least, that’s what happened to me the one time I tried using hot stock.
By now, you’ve sieved your stock. You can either discard the solids or make a second stock, which will of course have a much thinner flavor. I’m not sure I’ve ever bothered with this, but I see no harm in trying. If you taste your gizzards, you may notice they still have a good bit of flavor, so I figure a second stock is indeed possible.
Your dark meat was done a long time ago. I hope you didn’t forget it in the oven. All you are trying to do is brown the skin; yes, you can saute the dark meat instead of baking it. I’ve done it both ways. You’re not baking until done.
Into your cleaned stock pot, add the sieved stock, the partly baked dark meat, and the matzo balls.
I shape my balls (somewhere, one of my women friends is saying, “Is THAT what you call it?” Yes, dear. That’s what I call it) to about 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter. Add them to the sieved stock and chicken. If I remember correctly, the matzo meal box recipe asks you to boil your matzo balls in a separate pot of water; this is a wasted opportunity, as the matzo balls add body to the soup. If you like a thinner, blander soup, and if you really want an extra pot to clean, by all means, boil them separately. I’m laughing at you already.
Here’s the stock + chicken + matzo balls, ready to simmer.
I’ll occasionally add potato to the soup. If you like the idea, now is the time to add it. Peel and cube one russet potato (small cubes; you won’t be boiling much longer than half an hour, after all). The soup should simmer for half an hour; while it’s simmering, saute some vegies. I like them crisp, not mushy, which is why I’ve already thrown out the stock vegies. Sometimes I saute mushrooms, too. Just depends what you like. Snow peas and bok choy would be great, too, but they can be added at the last minute (like parsley, if you’re using it).
You’ll notice a little ramekin of shredded chicken here. What I didn’t tell you is that I had so many chicken legs in that value pack that I used two of them for the stock. The chicken on the leg was tasty enough that I decided to include it in the final product.
To finish, add sauteed vegies and parsley to the soup, adjust the flavor for salt and pepper, and serve with love!
NOTE: some people will tell you there are other ways to make matzo ball chicken soup. SOME PEOPLE ARE WRONG.