Happy Passover

28 Mar

Tonight was the first seder marking the start of Passover, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Passover seder includes many symbolic foods like matzoh, an unleavened bread, representative of the bread they were unable to let rise while fleeing. Another staple you’ll find at many Jewish holiday tables – not just Passover – is chicken soup with matzo balls.

While there are dozens and dozens of ways (just ask your grandma or mother!) to prepare this flavorful broth – Food for Show, Food on the Go (1983), a cookbook originally published by the now defunct Mount Sinai Hospital, provides the perfect starter recipe to make your own. This is definitely the basic recipe I follow – although I double it and use a ginormous soup pot. Plus I Iet it simmer for closer to 3 hours. And what I’ve learned over the years is the importance of the water to chicken ratio. Too much water and your soup will be tasteless. You want to aim for a rich yellow broth. And never, ever, plan to make chicken soup the day you want to eat it. Instead, refrigerate the cooked soup over night and the next morning you’ll be able to lift the fat that has risen to the top. Yes, you can leave a little if you like that shimmering effect!

This is a must-own cookbook. Luckily the Mount Sinai Community Foundation partnered with Sholom Home Auxiliary to update the book in 2007. This newer edition has new recipes from both the community and local restaurants. Many of my favorite recipes in this book include Baked Salami, Baked Brie, Roadhouse Potatoes, Tex-Mex Spread and more! You can still find it on Amazon.

That Soup

1 3½ – 4 pound chicken, cut up

1 medium, onion

2 carrots, sliced

1 parsnip, sliced

1 rib celery, sliced

1 tablespoon salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon dillweed or fresh dill (optional)

Rinse chicken pieces well (or not, experts now advise against rinsing chicken!). Place in a 4-quart pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and skim broth very well. Reduce to simmer and skim again. (fyi, I do very little skimming as I thoroughly strain my soup once cooked). Add all remaining ingredients and cook until chicken is tender, 1 – 1½ hours (or more; again the key is the color of your broth). Remove chicken. Serve soup with the cooked vegetables and matzo ball (and/or noodles/kreplach); sprinkle with dill.

Cook’s note: I combine chicken and veggies together from the start.

Traditionally chicken soup goes hand in hand with matzo balls – and I had every intention of including a matzo ball recipe here today but truthfully I have never found that “perfect” matzo ball recipe – which for me would be a firm ball redolent with flavors I remember at seders at my grandmothers. I wasn’t impressed with either matzo ball recipe in this otherwise outstanding cookbook so….I recommend you use the recipe found on the matzo meal canister/box or pick up a matzo ball mix in your supermarket. My soup picture shows my latest attempt at perfecting a matzo ball. Still not perfect but passable. I’m not sharing because I didn’t use a recipe – just my sense of how it the “batter” should look.

I will be sharing Passover friendly recipes here for the next week – recipes that anyone can enjoy any time without special ingredients!

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