Mexican Matzo Ball Soup

Mexican Matzo Ball SoupHigh Holiday Spice
When I think about Rosh Hashanah, I immediately think honey cake and brisket—this makes sense being traditional foods to celebrate the Jewish New Year. Those are quickly followed by chicken with pomegranate sauce and of course, fresh warm round challah. (I’ll pass on the Gefilte fish.) These are all foods I love (minus the fish) and one can find a lot of comfort in tradition. But, sometimes it becomes necessary to spice things up.

I ran across an article in the NY Times food section yesterday about a chef, Fany Gerson, who is of Jewish heritage but was raised in Mexico City. This fascinated me because while there are people of Jewish faith in any number of places, I just never put those two things together in my own mind. And, by doing so, my mind is blown. (Apparently, Mexico has one of the largest Jewish populations in Latin America…who knew?)

She grew up eating the same traditional foods for the holidays but over the years, the recipes were personalized using the flavors of their surroundings. As I read the article my mouth started watering at the description of the foods they would eat. Freshly baked challah with cinnamon and apples? Yes, please. Rugelach with chipotle-laced cherry filling? OMG! I did not see a mention of a cookbook in the article but I hope to God it’s coming soon.

One of my most favorite things, holiday or not, is Matzo Ball soup. I will choose matzo ball soup over chicken noodle any day of the week and twice on Sunday. This is why when I saw this recipe, I flipped out. It combines two of my favorites…Matzo and Mexican. How can you go wrong with that? This one is definitely on the menu this weekend. I don’t care if it’s 90 degrees outside…

Mexican Matzo Ball Soup
Adapted from Fany Gerson in the New York Times
Yields 6 to 8 servings

For the stock

2 chickens (2 1/2 to 3 pounds each), plus 8 whole chicken wings
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
3 celery stalks, cut into chunks
1-1/2 medium white onions, peeled and quartered
2 jalapeño peppers, sliced lengthwise
1 leek, split lengthwise and cut into chunks
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1/2 bunch cilantro
1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
About 6 black peppercorns
Kosher salt, to taste

For the matzo balls
1-1/4 cups matzo meal
2-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
5 large eggs, 3 of them separated
1/3 cup grated white onion, squeezed
in a dish towel to remove excess liquid
1/4 cup duck fat or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons finely minced cilantro or parsley

Condiments for serving
1 small white onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 Serrano peppers (or 1 jalapeño pepper), seeded and finely chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 to 2 avocados, diced
3 to 4 limes, cut into wedges

Make the broth

Place all the ingredients except the salt in a large soup pot and fill with cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Skim off any foam. Add salt and simmer, partially covered, until the chickens have fully
cooked (about 45 to 50 minutes).

Prepare the chicken
Carefully remove the chickens from the broth and transfer to a bowl, leaving the wings behind. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken and reserve meat, ladling a small amount of broth over it to keep it from drying out, then cover and set aside. Discard the skins and return the bones to the pot.

Continue cooking the broth at a high simmer for about 1.5 hours, adding more water if needed to replenish. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Strain and discard the vegetables and bones.

Make the matzo balls
About an hour before the broth is done, make the matzo balls. In a large bowl, combine the matzo meal, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and black pepper. In a medium bowl, whisk the 2 whole eggs with the 3 yolks, the grated onion, the duck fat and the minced cilantro. In another medium bowl, beat the 3 egg whites by hand or with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Stir the egg-yolk mixture into the dry ingredients, then add one-third of the beaten egg whites. Mix until incorporated.

Gently fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the batter and refrigerate until firm for 20 to 30 minutes.

Finish the soup
Return the chicken broth to a simmer and season it with salt, if needed.

Fill a small bowl with water and set aside. Using the water as needed to keep your hands moist, place a scoop of the batter (about 1 tablespoon) into your hands and roll each scoop of batter into a ball, handling as gently as possible.

Add the matzo balls as gently as possible and cook over moderate heat turning them a few times, until they are plump and cooked through (about 20 to 25 minutes). Stir the shredded chicken into the soup and cook just until the meat is warmed through(about 2 minutes).

Serve the soup
Serve the soup with onions, chiles, cilantro, avocado, and lime wedges on the side—so everyone can garnish as they like.

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