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Passover Chicken Soup


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I've been assigned the task of making the matzoh ball soup for this year's seder. I've got the matzoh balls down, but have never truly mastered the soup part. It always seems to be a bit bland, and lacks that certain flavor component that I associate with a good bowl of matzoh ball soup.

Anyone got a great, tried and true recipe? Or suggestions for making a good, classic Jewish chicken soup (the kind Bubbe used to make)?

I did a quick search and didn't find any prior topics on this, but if this has already been done, please lead me in the right direction.

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The best bet is to review the eGCI Stock Making Class. The foundation for good matzo ball soup is naturally a good chicken stock, with lots of gelatin in it. So you want to go out and buy a ton of chicken wings and turn them into stock.

To Fat Guy's basic stock, I might add herbs such as dill (a small amount, too much is bad). And I would not be afraid of adding salt and pepper.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

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After I make the soup I might continue to simmer for an hour or so to concentrate the soup. Be sure and use enough chicken. Any kind is fine except white meat. I also add parlsey and parsnips. After you have finished the soup I add a small amount of veggies such as carrots, onion and celery along with the matzah balls. Oh, and don't take off every single bit of fat since fat adds taste.

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Make your soup in advance - chill it and then remove all the fat - meaning you can leave the skin and fat on the chicken when the soup is simmering.

Fill your soup pot with bones - necks, backs and wings are good. If you're not going to use the chicken meat for anything else, then it's a waste of money to include meat. Add water to cover. Bring to a simmer and skim. Make sure to skim until the chicken stops producing scum - ensuring a clear soup. Add veggies - carrots, celery, onions and parsnip are my choice. Simmer for a couple of hours. Add fresh dill and simmer a little longer.

If you're using kosher chicken, don't salt until the soup is done. Because the chicken is salted in the kashering process, you could easily oversalt it.

Strain out all of the bones and veggies (unless you like the mushy celery and carrots like I do). Refrigerate and then remove fat from the top of the soup.

If you'd like, when you reheat the soup add fresh carrots and celery to the soup and simmer until cooked to your liking.

Edited by Pam R (log)
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lacks that certain flavor component that I associate with a good bowl of matzoh ball soup.

Can we try to go deeper on this? I know it's hard to put your finger on this sort of thing, but try anyway: What's the flavor component you're thinking of? Is it an herbal thing, a richness-of-broth thing, or some other seasoning? What matzoh ball soup do you consider the best? Can you get in touch with the person who made it, or with someone who has the recipe?

Picking up on Jason's point, sometimes this sort of perception is tied in to salt. And, if your taste memory involves commercially produced soups, MSG as well. Both salt and MSG are flavor enhancers, and if you're remembering a certain strength of flavor it may simply be impossible to replicate it without enhancement.

Also, there's a lot of variation in the herbs people use in their soups. For example my father-in-law always uses a lot of oregano. In a million years you can't make a soup that tastes like his unless you use a lot of oregano. It's not that it's better than, say, dill or parsley or whatever -- it's just that it gives his soups their signature taste.

Another thing, if you're remembering a real old-world soup, is that back in the day it's possible the fat was never removed from the broth. So there could have been just a ton of fat floating around in there, which gives a certain flavor and lusciousness (some would say greasiness) that you don't get any other way.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I always have some of that concentrated chicken base seasoning stuff in the fridge. Not boullion. If it doesn't taste "chickeny" enough, I recommend boiling uncovered to concentrate flavor but you can also cheat with the seasoning stuff.

So long and thanks for all the fish.
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I make great matza balls, but my soup often tastes like " dead water" according to my dad. I use parsnips, onion, carrot, celery and dill. I've taken to enriching the stock with a maggi cube. I cringe when i see how much sodium it has, but I dont know what else to do.

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This might sound like heresy, but I like using turkey necks in my chicken soup. They add an extra richness - I got this trick from my mother-in-law.

A great piece of advice I got from Chef Fowke on another chicken soup thread some time ago is to place the chicken in a cheesecloth bundle tied up with a long piece of string that hangs over the pot. (you can make a separate bundle of vegetables) It makes it very easy to pull it out of the pot in one swoop. I find this is particularly helpful when I'm working with chicken carcasses which otherwise fall apart.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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This might sound like heresy, but I like using turkey necks in my chicken soup.  They add an extra richness - I got this trick from my mother-in-law.

There is a turkey neck shortage in Canada. We keep ordering them and they don't come... and many of our customers use them for chicken soup. Do you think they are hording them all in T.O. for Seder Plate usage?

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Can we try to go deeper on this? I know it's hard to put your finger on this sort of thing, but try anyway: What's the flavor component you're thinking of? Is it an herbal thing, a richness-of-broth thing, or some other seasoning? What matzoh ball soup do you consider the best? Can you get in touch with the person who made it, or with someone who has the recipe?

Another thing, if you're remembering a real old-world soup, is that back in the day it's possible the fat was never removed from the broth. So there could have been just a ton of fat floating around in there, which gives a certain flavor and lusciousness (some would say greasiness) that you don't get any other way.

For me, the essence of the chicken and the richness is what I am searching for. I want the color to be golden (from the Yiddish term goldene yoich) and I like the mouthfeel of the fat globules upon my tongue. To get this, I use onions with the brown skins on to give off the colors ... I do clean the onion skins, please note. And because I want chicken to be central to the experience, I buy a fat kosher pullet which has a fair amount of salt already in the kashering process.

I also use celery stalks with the tops which I tie in a bundle for easy removal. Carrots, which I use a peeler to prepare. Parsley. Those onions. Salt and pepper. That's about it. I make the soup a day before I plan to serve it and leave the pullet in it for extra flavor.

Matzo balls and or noodles (if not Passover) are made separately and never put in the broth, lest they cloud it ... and they will.

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Thanks for all of the suggestions.

In response to Fat Guy's query upthread on pinpointing what I mean when I say my soup "lacks that certain flavor component", what I have in mind are the soups made by my grandmothers Unfortunately, one has now passed away and one is in poor health and is no longer able to cook, so I can't go back to them for tips. Also, I've tried the soup at some of the classic Jewish delis, like 2nd Avenue, and while they're tasty they seem too fatty and salty to me.

What some of you have suggested, a certain richness and fullness of flavor - very strong and "chickeny" if you will - is what I'm looking for, so I don't think it's so much about the herbs that are added (although the ideas are appreciated, and I'll probably try adding some dill). I'm sure there was a fair amount of salt in the soups my grandmothers made, but there was definitely more to the flavor. Maybe what Jason Perlow suggested, making a really good stock with lots of gelatin in it to get that very satisfying mouth feel.

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I've always been under the impression that the parsnips are what make a chicken soup taste like a classic Jewish soup. I think the celery tops will also help, as they add a similar herbal component.

I agree - but I'd add dill to that.

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What some of you have suggested, a certain richness and fullness of flavor - very strong and "chickeny" if you will - is what I'm looking for, so I don't think it's so much about the herbs that are added

In a word? Pullet.

In the days when our grandmothers made chicken soup, pullets were cheaper because they were older hens (no AARP jokes, please!! :laugh: ) ... but I would swear that today's average fryer chickens can't produce the richness in taste ... as for the fattiness? If you prefer not to eat that, chill and skim...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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In a word? Pullet.

In the days when our grandmothers made chicken soup, pullets were cheaper because they were older hens (no AARP jokes, please!!  :laugh: ) ... but I would swear that today's average fryer chickens can't produce the richness in taste ... as for the fattiness? If you prefer not to eat that, chill and skim...

Up here we call that a 'mature chicken'.

I think you can get a great, rich soup without the meat though

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For me, the essence of the chicken and the richness is what I am searching for. I want the color to be golden (from the Yiddish term goldene yoich) and I like the mouthfeel of the fat globules upon my tongue.  To get this, I use onions with the brown skins on to give off the colors ... I do clean the onion skins, please note.

Here's another trick I learned to get one's soup that golden color - a pinch of turmeric.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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I think that all of the suggestions mentioned will yield you a good soup, particularly if you reduce the final product a bit, which will help you acheive a deeper flavor (another reason to wait until the end to add salt, particularly if, as mentioned, you are using kosher chickens). The vegetables are certainly key, parsnip and carrots will give you some sweetness, onions or leeks are key as well. If you are able to find parsley root, that is a very nice addition to a chicken soup, it looks like a shorter version of a parsnip. It is not used by many people in this country, but was commonly used to make chicken soup by Jews through out Europe.

My key ingrediant for chicken soup are chicken feet, I never make my soup without them, it really adds a depth of flavor. In addition, there is no part of the chicken that contains more gelatin than the feet and the gelatin will give your soup very good body. If you use the feet you will notice the difference when you chill your soup, it will set into a very firm gel or aspic due to the gelatin from the feet. The feet are also delicious to eat.

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Most of my techniques for making really flavorful chicken soup have already been covered by others. Let's see, what else can I add? ... well, a little pre-browning of at least some of the ingredients can help add flavor. Give the carrots, and maybe some of the chicken parts/carcasses, a little roast in a low-ish oven till they get some color. Brown some of the onions in a little schmaltz or oil. That kind of thing.

Another thought: my secret ingredient for jacking up the flavor of soups and stewed dishes is mushrooms--fresh or dried. They're rich in naturally-occurring glutamates, so they add that savory kick without needing to go wacky with the Ac'cent (not that there's anything wrong with that, but I just think glutamates in mushroom form bring more flavor to the dish).

I have been known to use a pressure cooker to wring a whole lotta flavor out of a bunch o' soup-making ingredients in a relatively short amount of time. I note that when Alton Brown did a show on making beef broth in a pressure cooker, he recommended adding a shot of brandy just before serving to brighten up the flavor. I don't know that brandy is such a good match with chicken, but perhaps a little white wine (kosher of course in this case) would help matters along, whether you pressure-cook or no.

And above all, I too think getting a really flavorful chicken broth was a good bit easier in our parents' or grandparents' day when chickens were not so heavily mass-produced, and you could easily find older birds and live birds. In their absence, it might be worthwhile to start your soup-making with a free-range bird or parts thereof.

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I agree with mizducky about cooking the veggies to get the flavor out of them. She roasts, I usually saute. I start the soup by sauteing diced onion, celery (with leaves), carrots and/or parsnips thoroughly over medium high heat. Give them a shot of salt and pepper while they saute to bring out the flavor. Add the bony chicken pieces and saute some more. Then don't quite cover everything with cold water. Stir, heat to boil and check for seasoning, usually needs more salt and pepper. I like a little herbs de Provence and bay leaf in my chicken stock.

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I agree with mizducky about cooking the veggies to get the flavor out of them.  She roasts, I usually saute.  I start the soup by sauteing diced onion, celery (with leaves), carrots and/or parsnips thoroughly over medium high heat.  Give them a shot of salt and pepper while they saute to bring out the flavor.  Add the bony chicken pieces and saute some more.  Then don't quite cover everything with cold water.  Stir, heat to boil and check for seasoning, usually needs more salt and pepper.  I like a little herbs de Provence and bay leaf in my chicken stock.

Please ignore previous reply. I use my mom's chicken soup recipe (which was HER mom's )...A nice, fatty whole chicken, dill, parsley, parsnip, leek, turnip (yes, turnip), celery top, onion and carrot. Simmer until veggies are cooked (covered), then uncover, add salt, pepper, a little sugar and powdered ginger and continue simmering (reducing) until you achieve that "old world" flavor!

Stephanie Kay

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It's interesting (though not surprising) that there are so many different ways to acheive an 'old world' chicken soup.

My grandmother would have and did use chicken feet and some beef or veal neck bones - but you cannot buy kosher chicken feet in Manitoba these days. She never would have used things like ginger or herbs de Provence ... in her chicken soup or anything else. I doubt she knew they existed. Same goes for cooking up the veggie first. I have been told that she occasionally added a clove or two of garlic to her soup.

I guess the point is, Lsiegal, that you have to experiment with various things and see what you like best. Your bubbies chicken soup and my baba's soup may have been related only in the fact that they used some type of chicken and vegetables.

Good luck - and let us know how you do.

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When I take the time to do soup right...ie not at work... definately roast the bones and carrots and onions first, you develope a sweetness from carmalization which of course has to be offset by more salt, but :biggrin:

All my soups get a little shot of hot sauce at the end also not enough to taste, its just a "high note" in all that richness.

Chicken soups have also been getting some fresh lemon off the heat before serving, someone kept asking for lemon for their soup so I tried adding some in.

I have to make chicken soup twice a week at work so I have been experimenting more lately.....

t

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Ahhhh. Jewish penicillin. I judge all chicken soup against my standard, my mom’s chicken soup. No great secret. Mom always insisted on a whole kosher chicken. Wash your chicken thoroughly. Lay it in the bottom of your pot. Add carrots, celery (with green leaves) cut into large chunks. Add an onion cut in eights or quarters (leave the skin on for a rich color). Cover with cold water, add salt and pepper and bring to a rolling boil and skim, skim skim. Turn your heat down to maintain a constant simmer. When the soup is at a constant simmer, place fresh dill, a parsnip and a rutabaga on top. Continue to skim to maintain a clear soup. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust if necessary.

Just as a cautionary note, do not cook your matzo balls in the soup, as it will cloud it. Cook them separately in stock or salted water. If cooking them in stock you may consider adding some sliced carrots to use when serving the soup.

Eliahu Yeshua

Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.

- Alice May Brock

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place fresh dill, a parsnip and a rutabaga on top

Just a quick question for you, Kokh Leffle, doesn't adding a parsnip and a rutabaga give the soup a slightly sweetish (not Swedish!) flavor ? :rolleyes:

Ever the purist, I love my soup clear (yes!!) but salty and chickeny ... :biggrin:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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