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Every Jewish family has their version of matzo ball soup. Probably something that was passed down from a grandmother. Just like every Italian family has their version of “gravy” (red sauce for any non-Italians out there) and every Mexican family has their version of pasole. But with Passover coming we were inspired to play around with a basic matzo ball soup recipe and see if we could improve it. We’ve had many a bland, lack-luster matzo ball soup and knew we could do better. The goals were (#1) a light ball that still had that crackery matzo taste, and (#2) a “quick” stock that didn’t take all day. We hit the jack pot on both counts.

For the stock we thought we knew we couldn’t just use store-bought — it just doesn’t have the nuance of a homemade stock. But we thought we could use the store-bought as a base and add flavor by cooking it with some chicken thighs. The result was a full-flavored broth specked with just enough chicken fat to make it feel homemade. Cooked with a little carrot, celery and parsley and we had one fine quick soup base.

For the balls we used Ina Garten’s suggestion of putting some chicken fat into the balls — genius! This is probably something Jewish grandmas have been doing forever but it’s new to us. And after trying everything from baking soda to seltzer water, we found that simply separating the eggs and beating the whites made for the best texture — light enough to float but dense enough to still have some flavor.

After perfecting this recipe, we did it in on of our private cooking parties as part of an “Updated Passover” menu and it was a huge hit!!

Here’s what we did:

MATZO BALL SOUP

serves about 6 people (makes 14 balls)

for the soup:

2 chicken thighs (skin on!)

8 cups chicken stock (low-sodium, organic if possible)

2 cups small diced carrots

1 cup small diced celery

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley stems

for the balls:

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup chicken stock

3 tbl rendered chicken fat (melted and cooled slightly)

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 cup matzo meal

4 egg whites

Place the chicken thighs in a cold pan, skin-side down, over medium heat. Allow to cook for about 15 minutes until the fat has rendered and browned. Remove from the pan, leaving the fat behind. Combine the stock and browned thighs in a soup pot over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for 30 minutes. Remove the thighs. Add the carrots, celery and parsley stems. Cook for 5 minutes and turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, chicken stock, chicken fat (from the pan with the thighs), parsley and salt. Stir in the matzo meal. In another bowl, whisk the whites until they form stiff peaks. Add half of the whites into the matzo mixture and stir (the mixture will be quite stiff). Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Use a 1/4-cup scoop to form the balls and drop gently into the water — adjust the heat so the water is barely simmering and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the balls with a slotted spoon and place into the soup. Heat gently for 15 minutes before serving.

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