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Posted on Wed, Jan 2, 2013 : 11:15 a.m.

Matzah ball soup - 'Jewish penicillin' is a classic comfort dish

By Mary Bilyeu


Mary Bilyeu | Contributor

I have great respect for tradition, but am not usually a purist. Only a few times — such as with New York-style cheesecake — do I expect a food to be presented in a certain way and take issue if it's not.

So, when I make matzah ball soup — that classic "Jewish penicillin" — I add the accoutrements that generally come with chicken soup: peas, carrots, chicken. Craig, however, firmly believes that matzah ball soup consists of two ingredients: matzah balls and broth. Period. His sister Suzanne once chimed in on this topic, as well, siding with her brother and the classic version.

Growing up in New York City, I definitely ate my fair share of matzah ball soup, and it always came as a bowl of broth with either a large matzah ball or several smaller ones. But ....

Especially when I'm not feeling well — and not only am I recovering from bronchitis, but virtually everyone else I know has a cold or the flu, as well — I think the extra nutrients from the vegetables are beneficial. They enhance the soup's flavor, in addition to offering greater sustenance.

So regardless of whether you want all the goodies in your bowl of soup or whether you're a purist who just wants the traditional version, here's a simple recipe that will comfort you on a cold day and help you to resist the nasty illnesses that are floating around.

Matzah Ball Soup

1 32-ounce container chicken broth
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 cups water
3/4 cup white wine
juice of half lemon
2 large garlic cloves
2 generous tablespoons kosher salt

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a Dutch oven; cover, turn heat down to "low," and cook for 1 hour. Remove chicken and reserve for another use. Strain broth and place into a medium saucepan. Keep at a simmer.

Matzah Balls:
2 eggs
2 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons broth
1/2 cup matzah meal
pinch of kosher salt

Beat together eggs, oil, and broth; stir in matzah meal and salt, then cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Divide the matzah meal mixture into 4 portions; form each into a ball, then carefully place them into the broth. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, then serve hot.

Add chicken, carrots, peas, or other additions as desired.

Makes 4 servings.

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Mary Bilyeu writes for on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, telling about her adventures in the kitchen - making dinner, celebrating holidays, entering cooking contests, meeting new friends ... whatever strikes her fancy. She is also on a mission to find great deals for her Frugal Floozie Friday posts, seeking fabulous food at restaurants on the limited budget of only $5 per person. Feel free to email her with questions, comments, or suggestions:

Go visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — where she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related; and look for her monthly articles in the Washtenaw Jewish News. "Like" her on Facebook, or send a tweet on Twitter, too.

The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers - when you come to visit here, may you always be happy.



Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 7:54 p.m.

I keep mine simple. Water, two huge bone in chicken breasts and some bouillon cubes. Add matzo balls and then the peas and carrots. I did this for New Year. Yum. A little wine eh? Interesting twist.


Wed, Jan 2, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

peas? carrots? I guess I'm a purist.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 7:55 p.m.

I have been doing that for years.


Wed, Jan 2, 2013 : 8:40 p.m.

please no peas. add some dill. use club soda in the matzoh ball mix instead of broth. My grandmother is rolling in her grave.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 11:35 p.m.

I do the dill in the final soup (round 2 after making the broth and shredding the chicken. If your mix calls for 1/4 cup of oil, I sub 1/8th cup schmaltz from the stock and 1/8th club soda


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 7:55 p.m.

club soda? Wow. I use the boxed mix. Easier on me.


Wed, Jan 2, 2013 : 8:55 p.m.

where do you put the dill? in the broth of matzoh balls? I agree re: the club soda in the matzoh balls.

Jessica Webster

Wed, Jan 2, 2013 : 6:56 p.m.

I like the liberties you take with the soup, Mary. I will have to try this recipe.