Chef Eric Ehler of San Francisco shares his uber-comforting recipe for chicken and matzo ball soup. It’s a combination of a rich and creamy chicken-vegetable stew and matzo balls, which he grew to love by having many Jewish friends and “trying bowls of matzo ball soup at every deli I visit,” he says.
Matzo balls are a form of dumpling, but instead of a biscuit-type dough, they’re made with matzo meal, a traditional Passover ingredient. As they cook in the broth, matzo balls lighten and become fluffy.
Ehler is a Korean adoptee who was raised in Iowa. Growing up, his mom encouraged him to try different foods, and to cook at home. It inspired him to further explore his own culinary heritage as well his love of American Midwest country meals, diner food, Chinese takeout and gas station pizza. After 15 years of professional cooking, he opened up his own pizza shop, Outta Sight, with a good friend.
Ehler’s culinary experience is wide and varied, but this soup is a go-to, one that will forever be in his memory bank. “My mom made the chicken broth and dumplings from scratch. This was pretty groundbreaking stuff when your week is filled with a lot of canned and processed foods, too,” he says.
Making your own broth may sound intimidating, but it’s as simple as simmering a whole chicken in water with a few basic ingredients. This technique can be a gateway to so many amazing dishes, from this soup onward. You’ll end up with a delicious chicken stock, as well as tender chicken meat you can use during the week to boost salads, tacos and more.
- 1 ButcherBox Whole Chicken defrosted, rinsed and pat dry, gizzards discarded
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 large carrots
- 4 ribs celery
- 1 large yellow onion
- 2 cups matzo meal
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 3 tbsp olive oil plus more for shaping dumplings
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
- Place chicken in a Dutch oven or large stock pot. Pour in enough water to submerge the chicken by about 2 inches (about 3 ½ quarts). Add garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then adjust the heat to keep at a simmer until chicken is cooked, about 30 minutes (an instant-read thermometer stuck into the thigh away from the bone should read 165ºF). While the chicken is simmering, skim off the “scum,” the froth that forms at the top of the broth, with a spoon and discard.
- Transfer the chicken to a cooling rack. When cool enough to handle, pick the meat with your fingers and shred into small pieces. Discard the bones and skin.
- While the chicken is cooking, dice the carrot, celery, and onion into small, uniform pieces.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the matzo meal, eggs, olive oil and 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Mix with a fork until well combined. Using a small ladle or measuring cup, very very slowly stir in ½ cup of the hot chicken broth in a slow stream. Be sure to pour the broth in very slowly, stirring constantly, to avoid scrambling the eggs.
- In another medium to large sauce pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the diced vegetables, season with salt, and sauté until tender, about 7 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are coated and the mixture is a light blonde color, with a nutty aroma, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Bring the stock pot of broth back to simmer. Grease your hands lightly with olive oil and shape small balls out of the matzo meal mixture (they should be no larger than golf balls). When the broth is simmering, add the balls all at once and simmer until they are tender and rise to the top, about 10 minutes. Transfer the matzo balls to a plate.
- Using a ladle, measure out about 6 cups of broth and add to the sauce pot with the sauteed vegetables. Add the picked chicken meat and heavy cream, return to a simmer and stir well to fully mix.
- Add the matzo balls and dill to the pot and stir well. The stew should be lightly thickened and rich. Stir in some of the reserved broth to thin if needed. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.