Although matzo ball soup is traditionally served on Passover, my mother makes it for every holiday the whole family spends together. Quantities are perhaps more than you’ll need, but my mother never feels that there is enough unless we have copious amounts of leftovers.
2 gallons flavorful chicken stock
1 large 4 lbs chicken
2 lbs additional chicken necks and backs
10 black peppercorns
2-3 bay leaves
1 garlic head split in half
3 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs parsley
5 medium carrots
1 medium onion
from 2 heads celery- pale inner hearts and leaves
1 cup toasted, halved walnuts
11⁄2 cups matzo meal
6 eggs, slightly beaten
6 Tbsp chicken broth
6 Tbsp chicken fat “schmaltz” (reserved from the top of the broth)
2 Tbsp chopped curly parsley
1 Tbsp dill, chopped
In a large stockpot, combine the first eight ingredients. Add a small amount of salt. Bring to a boil and immediately turn down to a simmer. Skim the top once with a ladle and discard. Simmer for about 21⁄2 hours or until the chicken is falling apart. While the soup is simmering, peel the carrots, cut in half lengthwise and slice into 1⁄4” thick half moons. Set aside. Pull the leaves off of the celery hearts and set aside. Slice the stalks of celery on a bias, 1⁄4” thick. Combine with the carrot and set aside. Peel the onion and cut in half from root to tip. Slice in half again and slice the quarters 1/8” thick. Combine with the carrots and celery.
Using a ladle, skim as much fat as possible off the top of the soup and refrigerate. Using a combination of a skimmer and tongs, gently remove the chicken from the pot. Place on a platter to cool. Strain the soup through a fine sieve, pour back into the pot, and allow to cool before refrigerating overnight.
Pull the skin off of the chicken. Pull the meat off of the bones. By hand, shred the meat into bite-sized pieces along the grain of the meat. The chicken should fit on a soup spoon. Discard the sinew, veins and cartilage. Pack the chicken meat tightly in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, remove the soup and the reserved chicken fat from the refrigerator. With a soup spoon, scrape the fat off of the top of the soup and combine with previously reserved fat. Allow fat to warm but not liquefy in the vicinity of the stove. Remove two quarts of stock from the pot and bring to a simmer in a wide pot. Skim the foam and fat from the top. Check and adjust the salt if necessary.
Pour the matzo meal into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and whisk together well. Combine eggs, “schmaltz” and cool chicken broth. Mix until the batter just comes together. The batter should be stiff enough to just form a ball but it will be somewhat difficult to work with. A loose batter is part of the secret to light, fluffy matzo balls. Refrigerate mix for 20 minutes.
Fill a small bowl with cool tap water. Dip your hands in to wet them. Grasp a walnut in one hand and then scoop up enough batter to form a 1” ball. Form a ball around the walnut and gently drop into the simmering soup. Repeat, wetting your hands as necessary until you have four or five matzo balls in the pot. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the balls have fluffed-up and float. You may have to sacrifice one in order to test the doneness. (You can then use the same timing for subsequent batches.) When cut in half, the matzo ball will be moist all the way to the center- there will not be an undercooked core around the walnut in the center. When done, transfer the cooked matzo balls to a large platter. Keep covered between batches.
While the matzo balls are cooking, add the cut vegetables to the other pot of soup and cook until soft. When done, add the chicken and the matzo balls. Simmer until both the chicken and the matzo balls are heated-through. Add the parsley and dill, simmer five more minutes and serve.