Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chicken soup, matzo balls, no schmaltz

I used to cook quite a bit and I enjoy it, but with Whole Foods nearby, why bother?

Still, a few times a year, on major Jewish holidays, I'll whip up some chicken soup using the scariest and most dangerous kitchen appliance ever invented - a pressure cooker.

Hey, I'm no Joan Nathan, but this recipe works for me:

Step 1: I slice three carrots and one medium-sized yellow onion so that the bottom of the pot is completely covered. I hate cutting the onions. They sting my eyes and make me cry. I know there's probably a way to cut an onion and not make your eyes sting but I haven't found it yet.

Step 2: Then I add boneless, skinless chicken breasts. These are organic, air-chilled, free-range chickens but really, any kind will do. I just use them because I always have. "Tradition, Tradition!" Naturally, you don't get as much flavor as you would using a whole breast, with the skin and bones, but it's much healthier. Life is a tradeoff.

Step 3: I liberally, and I do mean liberally, sprinkle parsley and celery flakes over the chicken, adding a few teaspoons of powdered chicken soup mix to make up for the lack of schmaltz. The first time I made chicken soup on my own I put in paprika. Big mistake.

Step 4: I add six cups of water. I use bottled water but tap water will work perfectly fine, too. Notice you're not filling the cooker all the way to the brim.

Step 5: I let it cook until the pressure regulator starts rocking violently. Then, turn the heat down slightly and let the cooker simmer for 15 minutes. This is the scary, dangerous part. I'm always afraid it's going to blow up. But I guess that's what the pressure regulator is for. At least I hope.

Step 6: It usually takes about 45 minutes for the cooker to cool and the pressure to go down. If you want to speed things up, you can put the cooker in the sink and run some water over it. There's probably enough soup for six to eight servings.

Step 7: Plop in a matzo ball. I used to make my own from a mix but matzo balls are like tribbles. You make 20 or so the size of walnuts, put them in a pot to boil and in no time at all you've got 20 or so the size of baseballs. Who needs that many matzo balls?

Enjoy! And kids, don't try this at home without adult supervision. (By the way, if the White House is interested, my chicken soup and I are both available for next year's Passover seder.)


Vance said...

Happy Passover!

Apparently if onions are cold, they release less of the crying element. I saw it on that new Food TV show with Ted Allen (Queer Eye/Top Chef). So they say to stick onions in the fridge before you cut it.

I haven't tried it yet though.

So matzo balls expand? I did not know that.

The whole thing looks tasty though!

Esther said...

Thanks, Vance! And thanks for the tip about the onions. I will definitely try that. I hate cutting them up.

Yes, matzo balls expand. At least they did the few times I made them. Each of the balls was about the size of a walnut and when I dropped them in boiling water for a few minutes, they got a lot bigger. So beware!

Sarah B. Roberts said...

"but matzo balls are like tribbles" - classic!!!! I finally tasted a matzo recently - very strange.

Esther said...

Thanks, Sarah! Every once in awhile I do come up with a good line. ;-)

Yeah, matzo's not the tastiest thing to eat out of the box. You should try it covered in chocolate, or fried up with eggs. Much better! But I guess the point is it's supposed to be a reminder of all the harsh times Jews have endured.

By the way, here's an interesting linguistic fact: In Hebrew, "slave" and "work" come from the same root!