Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Matzoh Ball Soup and Sauteed Chicken Liver Spread!



Ingredients for making matzoh ball soup
My sister Sheryl came out to Lake Wynonah for Passover this year. I decided I would make a couple of family recipes for her and John while Sheryl made her famous apricot chicken and tzimmes dish.  I chose my family's recipes for matzoh ball soup and sauteed chicken liver spread. Now before you turn up your nose at the thought of sauteed chicken livers, I have to tell you that my Mom's recipe is soo good, you just may be won over.  But for the faint of heart, I decided not to show me cleaning up those chicken livers due to the ick factor!

I remember my Nana Newman made matzoh balls or knaidlach (Yiddish for dumpling) from scratch each year for the Jewish holiday.  Nana's were not too big and not too small. As a young child, my family would dine at the Ellisburg Delicatessen in Cherry Hill, NJ where they would serve one huge softball sized matzoh ball in a small bowl with broth. I hated that. Call it the kid mentality but I felt I was getting cheated with just one huge matzoh ball. If I got several smaller ones, I felt I got more. Not to mention that the larger the matzoh ball, the more uneven it could be in the center. You'd think a good Jewish delicatessen would have known this. Oy vey! What are ya gonna do?

Rolling those matzoh balls




Mom once recounted to me of one of her Passover memories when she sat down with her parents, my Nana Sarah and Grandpop Herman, and Mom's grandparents on her father's side, Adolph and Augusta Newman. Adolph had a long, curled wax mustache which was very de rigueur during his time. Mom was a very young child and she was with other kids, possibly her cousins, at the Passover Seder. Great-grandfather Adolph was eating his matzoh ball soup with long noodles. The noodles apparently kept getting caught on his curled mustache. This stern German man never cracked a smile and acted as if nothing was wrong as the children stifled their giggles and laughter.

Having matzoh ball soup was the best part of my childhood Passover Seders. Mom once mentioned to me that Nana's secret was that once they were cooked, if you could bounce them on the counter top, they were perfect. I think the culinary theory behind this was that if they bounced, then they had just enough give and were not too dense.


Passing the bounce test!

Unfortunately, Nana did not pass down a recipe to Mom and so instead, I used a recipe of Mom's for the matzoh balls. And yes, they DID pass the bounce test! Sometimes they can be rather bland, dry or gummy.  Mom's recipe for matzoh balls came out great. Not to dense, just spongy enough, and full of flavor.  It felt great making such an authentic Jewish recipe from (almost) scratch!  I did everything myself except grind that matzoh meal. Thank G-d for Manischewitz!

Chicken soup with matzoh balls!

Mom's other recipe that I made was a sauteed chicken liver spread. This is a traditional Jewish appetizer. The recipe was actually pretty easy but a bit just laborious. There are several steps and it can get a bit messy. Besides cleaning the chicken livers which was not the most pleasant part, you had to saute them, then roughly chop and blend them. I am happy to say it was well worth the effort. They were flavorful and smooth. I blended mine with some chicken stock to make the spread a bit smoother.

Sheryl mentioned that most recipes including our family one, call for a courser chop of the chicken liver spread and not such a smooth consistency. Well let me tell you, my dear sister definitely enjoyed the sauteed chicken liver spread, even with a smoother consistency! LOL. She was even happier when I sent some home with her. I served the spread with broken pieces of matzoh, each about the size of a tortilla chip.


Sauteed chicken liver spread with matzoh
Now as a child, I never liked chicken livers. I think because I associated chicken livers with beef liver. I remember my Nana often trying to serve us kids calves' liver and onions. Mom made it for us on occasion, too, because it was a cheap meal. I just could not stomach the flavor or consistency of liver. The only way I could muster myself to eat it was drowning it in ketchup or I would go to bed hungry. However, I loved those sauteed onions!  Now I will happily enjoy the chicken livers but I'll still pass on the calves' liver, thank you very much.  There's not enough ketchup in the world!

These two recipes really pushed my culinary envelope. I am proud that I could honor my family's heritage by making them. And they both actually came out great.  The recipes are below with any changes I made.


MATZOH BALLS or KNAIDLACH by Abby Deeds

4 eggs beaten
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup melted shortening or chicken schmaltz (melted chicken fat) or 2 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 tspn salt
dash of pepper
1 cup of matzoh meal

Add water, shortening, salt & pepper to beaten eggs. Mix well. Add matzoh meal and stir well. Allow to stand 20 minutes to thicken.
Form into small balls and drop into boiling water. Cook for 20 minutes and then add to soup.

***I used margarine as I couldn't find any chicken schmaltz. John, my favorite Italian Catholic, called me from a local Berks County butcher and asked if I could use pork fat instead..  Poor John, he got quite a lip from me explaining how matzoh balls made with pork fat would NEVER work! Something do to with ...uhm... being Kosher? He took it well. Hahaha.

CHOPPED CHICKEN LIVERS by Abby Deeds

Serves 12

1 pound of rinsed and cleaned chicken livers
4 tspn of chicken schmaltz or 2 tspn margarine or butter
2 onions diced
3 hard cooked egg yolks
1/4 tspn black pepper

Wash and clean chicken livers and remove any spots. Drain well.
Heat 2 tspn fat (1 tspn butter/margarine) in a pan. Brown the onions.
Remove the onions and sautee the chicken livers in a skillet for 10 minutes.
Grind or chop the onions, livers, and egg yolks to a course mixture.
Add salt and pepper and the remaining  2 tspn of fat (1 tspn butter/margarine).
Mix to taste. Serve with broken pieces of matzoh.

***Again, I used margarine ... see the anecdote above! LOL. This was easy but just a bit time consuming getting everything ready. If you have your ingredients, it can go quite smoothly.  Next time I will not make such a smooth mixture though. Mine came out to the consistency of a pate' but it still had great flavor.


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