Serious Eats: Recipes

Blue Ribbon's Excellent Matzo Ball Soup

[Photographs: Caroline Russock]

During Jewish holidays when I was growing up, Matzo Ball Soup was always the number one topic of conservation. Coming from a family that wasn't too concerned with food on an everyday basis, I found it strange that everyone automatically turned into a critic when the soup was served. First the soup itself was discussed: Too salty? Not flavorful enough? Or perhaps there was a little too much dill?

After dissecting the soup, it was time to talk about the matzo balls. One of my grandmothers made golfball-sized matzo balls that were dense and sunk to the bottom of the bowl, while my other grandmother's were softball sized, so light that they fell apart in your spoon. I enjoyed them both, since choosing between them would be like picking a favorite grandmother.

But it's been a while since I've had a bowl of grandmother-made matzo ball soup and with Passover coming up I figured it was time that I made a batch of my own. I chose the recipe from Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Cookbook, the eagerly anticipated cookbook from Bruce and Eric Bromberg, the masterminds behind the Blue Ribbon family of restaurants in New York.

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Their recipe starts with a flavorful stock made of a whole chicken cooked with plenty of aromatics. Once the chicken is cooked through, it's taken out and the meat is stripped from the bones. The bones are placed back in the stock and cooked for an additional hour. The stock is left to cool overnight so that a layer of chicken fat, or schmaltz, forms on the surface.

The Bromberg Brother's matzo balls contain two secret weapons for ultimate matzo ball deliciousness: schmaltz and seltzer water. The seltzer water lightens the matzo balls and the chicken fat gives them incredible flavor. Since the matzo balls are cooked in water instead of chicken broth they retain a flavor of their own instead of just soaking up the stock.

Is Blue Ribbon's matzo ball soup better than either of my grandmother's? I'd rather not say. What I will say is that it lived up to the title of "excellent"—the stock was beautifully flavored, and the matzo balls were the ideal weight and density and tasted of chicken fat in the best possibly way.

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