Homemade Chicken Soup with Herbed Matzoh Balls
Garlic-Scented Lima Beans, Micro-Thin Carrot Slices
Fine Egg Noodles, Hand-Shredded Roasted Chicken Breast
Fresh Parsley and Dill Garnish
This soup is dedicated to my Nana. I thank her for inspiring me with a life-long passion to explore the cuisine of our heritage. Year after year, I tweak her original chicken soup recipe. This one, prepared in celebration of the High Holy Days (5772 on the Hebrew calendar) resulted in one of the best versions ever. The matzoh balls were light and fluffy, the garlic-scented lima beans added heft, the flavorful broth was beautifully clear and just barely rich. Delicate fine egg noodles and colorful carrots balanced out the dish.
My paternal Grandparents – Irving and Fanny Hirsch (front center)
Careful attention to each component is what makes it special. This soup uses two birds, one for making the broth, the other is roasted – the breast meat shredded and added just before serving. From the double-strained flavorful broth with the tiniest amount of schmaltz droplets providing a hint of richness, to the elegantly sliced carrots (I was never of fan of a floating carrot log), to the garlicky-creamy beans – I am certain my Nana would have approved.
Chicken Soup Recipe
- one high-quality whole soup chicken, rinsed and cut-up
- one large yellow onion, peeled
- 3 celery ribs
- 3 large carrots, peeled
- 1 parsnip, peeled
- one handful fresh parsley, stem-on
- 1/2 t. whole peppercorns
Place chicken in a pot of filtered cold water, bring to a boil, skim the surface, and adjust heat to low. Cooking on too high heat will result in a cloudy soup. Skim the surface periodically to remove scum and fat. After an hour add peppercorns, rough chopped onion, carrot, celery, parsnip, and parsley. Cook for another hour. Turn off heat and let cool slightly for 1/2 hour. Strain through a colander, discard the solids. Strain a second time through a fine mesh sieve to get a beautiful clear soup. Return soup to a clean pot, add salt to taste.
Garlic-Scented Lima Bean Recipe
Rinse and sort through one pound of dried lima beans. Place in a large pot and cover with cold filtered water. Add 5 smashed garlic cloves and 1 T. sea salt to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Skim off any foam. Cook until beans are tender, about 2 hours, then drain off the liquid. My Nana used to cook the beans right in the soup. And unlike my siblings, they were my favorite part. But cooking the lima beans in the soup precludes a crystal-clear finished broth. Here, I cook the beans separately, and add garlic for another layer of flavor.
Herbed Matzoh Ball Recipe
- 1 packet matzoh ball mix (I like Manischewitz)
- 2 large eggs (not jumbo)
- 2 T. good-tasting olive oil
- 1 t. finely chopped dill
- 1 1/2 t. finely chopped parsley
A carton of Matzoh Ball Mix contains 2 packets. Each 2 1/2 oz. packet can make 8 – 12 balls. Rolling the mix into eight balls will result in a matzoh ball a bit smaller than a baseball. Rolling the mix into twelve balls will result in a size larger than a golf ball. The larger balls will take longer to cook all the way through.
In a small bowl blend eggs with olive oil. Stir in dill and parsley. Add the contents of one packet of matzoh ball mix and blend with a fork. Chill in refrigerator for 15 minutes. Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to boil.
Wet your hands and roll chilled batter into balls. Gently drop the balls into the boiling water. Cover tightly, turn down the heat to medium-low. This is one of my secrets: do not turn the heat all the way to simmer. I think with medium-low heat, agitation from the boiling water with lots of room in the pot helps create fluffier balls. Do not open the lid during cooking, as the steam and pressure also helps make those light airy dumplings. So, as we say, NO PEEKING!
Depending on the size of the ball, it will take about 20-30 minutes to cook all the way through. Now, once the time has passed, you need to check if the balls are done. Remove one from the pot and cut it in half. The entire center should be light and fluffy like the outside of the ball, not dark in color.
Remove the fully cooked balls with a slotted spoon and set in a dish or pan in a single layer. Do not cook your matzoh balls in your chicken soup, as this will give you a murky soup.
Roasted Chicken, Noodles, and Carrots
Chicken: Either roast a whole chicken while the soup is cooking, or purchase a ready-to-eat whole roasted rotisserie chicken from the market. Remove the skin and shred the breast meat by hand. Reserve the rest of the chicken for another use.
In the past I would remove a chicken breast half-way through cooking the broth, and reserve it to add to the finished soup, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the texture and flavor of the boiled meat. Here, adding fresh roasted chicken to the final soup imparts a lovely roasted flavor and the meat retains its perfect texture.
Carrots: The vegetables that are used to make the broth are discarded as most of the flavor has been leached into the soup. Peel two additional medium-sized carrots, then slice very thin (I use a mandoline). Cook the carrot slices separately in a small amount of the chicken broth for about 3 to 4 minutes.
Noodles: Cook fine egg noodles according to package instructions. Add a splash of olive oil. Drain and rinse lightly with cold water. Do not overcook the noodles.
Herbs: Finely chop fresh parsley and dill for garnish.
The Best Chicken Noodle Soup
To serve the soup: Heat clear chicken broth to a boil, turn down the heat and add chicken, carrots, and lima beans to warm through. Place noodles and a matzoh ball (or two) in the bottom of a bowl. Ladle hot soup over the noodles. Garnish with parsley and dill.
With the conclusion of Yom Kippur, I wish all of you, my family, and friends a New Year that is sweet and good. May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a healthy, peaceful, and fulfilling year. And may this new year bring satisfaction, achievement, and happiness. L’Shana Tova!
UPDATE: If serving Chicken Soup for Passover, remember to omit noodles and beans which are not considered Kosher for Passover. Add another Matzoh Ball!