Matzo Ball Soup

Chicken soup, there are my pre USA days and post USA days chicken soup chronicles. In my pre USA days I never cooked or seasoned with thyme. When I arrived in the US I associated thyme with Thanksgiving, turkey and all the sweet trimmings. Fresh thyme, from a thanksgiving association, it became an every day staple in my kitchen and in my chicken soup. The other ingredient that in fact Israelis love in any shape and form is leek. I sometimes add it to my chicken soup, but only to my chicken soup. I have mixed feelings about leeks, ok at the risk of offending leek aficionados, I really do not like leeks!! Don't ask me why!! I do bring myself to add it to my chicken soup, it will add a dimension even if you are not a leek person. Feel free to leave comments in defense of leeks, never know you guys might convert me?! The rest of the soup is pretty straight forward chicken soup. I do use Manischewitz matzo ball mix, our guests always think I made the matzo balls from scratch. Honestly, there is not much to making it from scratch, it's just taking the plain matzo meal as opposed to already flavored Manischewitz and adding, salt, etc. Sometimes adding baking soda to make them fluffier, but the rest of the steps are exactly the same for both. The Manischewitz really complements the chicken soup I make, it works!! I don't pack the matzo balls tight when I form them as they cook they turn light and fluffy!! I did want to discuss here kosher chickens or brined chickens but then I got into ranting (you had to see the original draft) about thyme, thanksgiving and leeks. I normally cook with organic chickens, but for this soup I use kosher chickens for it cuts back on my time brining. The soup tastes great with organic chickens but even better with kosher. I know there are kosher organic chickens out there, I have not seen them readily available. Can't fathom the cost of double certification, organic and kosher....but that is a different subject altogether! I make this soup for Passover but at times when it's a particularly wintery day, or when someone is under the weather it's nourishing and comforting. On those days when it's not Passover, serve soup with veggies and chicken and add some mini pasta, which I cook al dente separately and add to soup. Keep in mind regular pasta is not kosher for Passover!!

Chicken Soup
4lbs plus chicken drumsticks and wings (skinned)
you can also add instead or in addition chicken necks and bones
3-4  carrots, peeled and cuts in chunks
3-4 ribs celery and leaves, chopped roughly
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
2 leeks, white parts only (optional)
3-4 garlic cloves
Bunch of parsley
Few springs of thyme
2 bay leaves (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Add chicken and the rest of the ingredients to a stock pot and cover with water about 2-3 inches above.  Bring to a boil and reduce to medium/low and cook for 1 1/2 -2 hours or until color of soup is deep golden. The liquid will reduce considerably. Skim the top as you go along. Strain through a sieve for a beautifully clear rich golden chicken broth.

Matzo Ball Mix
(makes about 10-12 matzo balls)
Manischewitz matzo ball mix and according to instruction on box add:
2 eggs
2 tablespoons canola
Chicken soup broth from above
Beat eggs lightly with a fork.  Add canola oil and mix quickly.  Add one packet of matzo ball mixture and stir with a fork. Cover and let sit if the fridge for 20 min. (says 15 min on box, but I always let it sit in refrigerator longer, you can step out of the house run errands and come back couple of hours later, that is fine too).  Bring the chicken broth to a boil and turn down to medium low simmer.  Wet hands with cold water and form small round matzo balls lightly packed, but nicely roundly shaped.  Drop formed matzo balls into soup.  Let fluff and cook, then with the back of a tablespoon tap the top of each matzo ball, and they will flip to the other side (nice little trick and it does not bruise the consistency of the round shaped matzo balls by using the smooth back side of the tablespoon).  Let cook for a bit longer.  You will see the matzo balls are light and airy.  Turn off heat and let matzo balls sit in hot broth for a little while, relax and expand some more. Prior to serving heat up soup and serve.  Soup and matzo balls can be made a day ahead.