Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls


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Wolfgang PuckTo make great chicken soup, start by making chicken stock from bones, necks and even feet from your butcher. This will give your soup a foundation of rich flavor and body. Then, poach a good, plump chicken in the stock. Simmer it very slowly and gently with aromatic vegetables to coax out the maximum flavor; and take care to cleanse the surface repeatedly by skimming off the froth of impurities that forms there, to ensure crystal-clear liquid and pure flavor. Remember that before the matzo mixture is chilled, it might seem looser than you'd expect; so don't make the mistake I once did of adding more matzo meal for a firmer pre-chilled mixture, which will only yield matzo balls that are as hard as rocks.

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  • 6 lb. chicken bones, including necks and feet, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into 1-inch slices
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1 small celery stalk, cut into 1-inch slices
  • 1 small leek, cleaned and cut into 1-inch slices
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. whole white peppercorns
  • 1 whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large carrots, cut into small cubes
  • 2 large onions, cut into small cubes
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into small cubes
  • 3 parsnips, cut into small cubes
  • 3 whole cloves, wrapped in cheesecloth and tied into a bundle
  • 4 Tbs. melted rendered chicken fat or vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 C. matzo meal
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 C. cool Chicken Stock or water
  • 2 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley leaves
  • 2 Tbs. chopped chives
  • 1 Tbs. chopped dill leaves

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First, up to several days ahead, make the Chicken Stock: Put the chicken bones in a 6- or 7-quart pot, add enough cold water to cover well, and bring to a rolling boil. As the liquid approaches a boil, carefully and continuously skim off the foam and fat that rises to the surface. Add the remaining stock ingredients, reduce the heat to a bare simmer, and continue simmering, uncovered, 2 to 3 hours, skimming as necessary. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl and cool. If making the stock in advance, cover and refrigerate; if you do so, discard most of the hardened layer of fat that forms on its surface before continuing; if you use the stock immediately, carefully skim off most of the liquid fat floating on its surface. Reserve 1/4 C. of stock for the matzo balls.

For the Chicken Soup, put the stock and the chicken in a large stockpot, add a little salt and pepper, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Add the cubed vegetables and clove bundle and simmer gently for 45 minutes more. Remove the chicken from the pot and set it aside to cool. Set the broth aside and keep it warm. While the chicken is cooling, make the Matzo Balls: In a mixing bowl, stir together the chicken fat or oil and the eggs. Stir in the matzo meal and salt until thoroughly blended, then stir in the stock or water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. With a small ice cream scoop, scoop out balls of the matzo meal mixture, taking care not to compact them, and drop gently into the water. Cover and cook for about 40 minutes.

While the matzo balls are cooking, remove the skin and bones from the cooled chicken and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Return the chicken meat to the broth. Return the soup to the medium heat to bring it back to hot serving temperature. To serve the soup, ladle the broth, vegetables and chicken meat into individual soup plates or bowls. With a slotted spoon, transfer 1 or 2 matzo balls from their pan to each bowl. Just before serving, garnish with chopped parsley, chives and dill.

(Chef Wolfgang Puck's TV series, "Wolfgang Puck's Cooking Class," airs Sundays and Wednesdays on the Food Network. Also, chef Wolfgang Puck's latest cookbook, Wolfgang Puck Makes It Easy, is now available in bookstores. Write Wolfgang Puck in care of Tribune Media Services Inc., 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY. 14207.)



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