Passover: Three Award-Winning Matzah Ball Recipes and the Stories Behind Them

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Three matzah ball recipes. One, from Joshua Marcus (Chow Down Grill, Josh's Deli & Appetizing), uses duck schmaltz and ginger beer ("I own an Asian restaurant so the ginger beer and duck schmaltz seemed apropos."). Another, from Sharon Locke of Delray Beach, calls for rolling the balls in a cinnamon-sugar mix and roasting ("The concept was rather strange to me, but I figured that it was a family tradition and I shouldn't turn my nose up so quickly. But, when my father-in-law actually put them in his chicken soup.....well, that was it!"). The third recipe comes from Judith Reicin, from Illinois, who got it from a Catholic friend ("The matzah balls were so outstanding that it replaced my Jewish grandmother's recipe!").

These were three winning matzah balls from The Third Annual Golden Matzah Bowl held at Forest Trace Luxury Resort Senior Community. Josh won for Best Matzah Ball Recipe from Scratch; Sharon won for Best Matzah Ball Recipe From the Box; and Judith's is the top Traditional Matzah Ball Recipe. Instructions on how to make each follows, along with the backstory on how the recipe came to light.

Passover hint: You could potentially host a Seder that will be the talk of the neighborhood if, after the gefilte fish plates are removed from the table, you announce that the following course is "Matzah Ball Three Ways."

Matzah Balls with Asian Flair - Joshua Marcus

The Story...
"My paternal grandmother used to make matzah balls with me when I was young. My grandfather, who worked in the NYC garment district, would walk home every Friday so he would pass the local kosher bakery and buy freshly baked matzah. The matzahs were so big that he carried them home in pizza boxes. By Sunday, the matzah would be stale. But my grandmother, who would never waste anything, would crush up the remaining pieces and put them in a jar in order to save them till the following Friday when she would use them to make matzah balls. I adapted what I remembered from the process...my grandmother would use Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda instead of seltzer that everyone used and of course she used chicken schmaltz fat. But I own an Asian restaurant so the ginger beer and duck schmatlz seemed apropos."
The Recipe:
5 pieces of whole matzah (unsalted), broken to smaller pieces
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup ginger beer
1/4 cup rendered duck fat (can substitute chicken fat or canola oil)
1 shallot, diced
6 egg whites, beaten until foamy
1 cup matzah meal
salt and pepper to taste

In a sauté pan, place the duck fat and shallots, sauté until soft. Let cool but do not refrigerate. You do not want the fat to solidify.
In one large bowl, place the broken pieces of matzah, the chicken stock, ginger beer and whipped egg whites.
When the onion/duck fat mixture is ready, add this to the pot as well.
Mix thoroughly. Then slowly add your matzah meal, letting the meal incorporate slowly.
Finally add the salt and pepper to taste.
Cover this mixture and place in the refrigerator, preferably overnight.
In a pot big enough to hold your future matzah balls, add 3 parts water to 1 part chicken stock, and salt. Let water come to a rolling boil.
Form your matzah balls to any size you like -- i prefer something between a golf ball and a tennis ball.
Add matzah balls to the water, and cook on a slow simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, uncovered. Serve in your preferred form of soup broth and be happy.

Cinnamon Matzah Balls - Sharon Locke

The Story...
"I know what you're thinking...this is an abomination! Deciding whether to have floaters or sinkers has been a big enough issue over the years. The solution to that is really easy enough. Sinkers? Opening the soup pot to check on the matzah balls makes them sink. Leave the lid closed for the allotted cooking time and your matzah balls will always float. But sweet-flavored matzah balls? NO WAY!

When I first became a member of my ex-husband's family, my motherin-law made a separate batch of matzah balls for a holiday meal according to the package directions, removed them from the water when they were done, rubbed them with cooking oil, rolled them in cinnamon and sugar, baked them off until they dried up some (forming somewhat of a glaze), and served them with dinner. The concept was rather strange to me, but I figured that it was a family tradition and I shouldn't turn my nose up so quickly. But when my father-in-law actually put them in his chicken soup......well, that was it!

Twenty-some years later, I have changed the recipe slightly to be a bit healthier than the original. My family demands them for every occasion and friends constantly ask for the recipe."

The Recipe:
1. Prepare the matzah balls according to the package directions. I prefer Manishewitz brand, as it seems less salty.
2. Drain the matzah balls and allow to cool until manageable to the touch.
3. While still moist, roll the matzah balls in a bowl of cinnamon-sugar mixture.
4. Place the coated matzah balls on a baking sheet, lightly sprayed with non-stick spray.
5. Bake in a 350F degree oven for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, or until glazed and somewhat dried out.
6. May be served hot or at room temperature...in or out of your soup!

Traditional Matzah Balls - Judith Reicin

The Story...
My Catholic friend received this recipe from a Jewish delicatessen owner many years ago. She invited my family over for dinner and the first thin she served us was delicious chicken soup with matzah balls -- the last thing I thought I would eat in a Catholic home. The matzah balls were so outstanding that it replaced my Jewish grandmother's recipe!

The Recipe:
1. Lightly beat 2 large eggs with 1/4 cup of melted butter or canola oil.
2. In separate bowl, mix 2/3 cup of matzah meal, 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon Accent, a small amount of parsley and chives for color and a pinch of garlic powder. Add to egg mixture and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
3. Remove chilled matzah ball mixture from the refrigerator. Wet hands and form batter into balls approximately one inch in diameter.
4. Add the matzah balls to the boiling water. Cover tightly and simmer for 30 minutes or until cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon.

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