Saturday, July 14, 2012

Incredible Inedibles: Matzo Ball Soup

Once upon a time I worked in an American restaurant in a rather posh suburb of Adelaide.

There aren't many American restaurants in Adelaide. Or actually, anywhere.

That's because when most Australians think of American food, they think of this:

Except for maybe the sushi, I think that comes from Canada.

Which is fine, of course, but generally not served in the sort of restaurant you want to take a date to (unless maybe you're on a blind date and you've decided you don't like them after all, and you want to try and get rid of them. Then you could take them to "Jake's All You Can Eat Americano Grub Shack" and you'd be sure to never see them again.)

The problem was this restaurant didn't serve hot dogs and fries and burgers, or even Canadian sushi. It served rather nice modern American cuisine like crab cakes and New York strip steak and clam chowder and wanted to be thought of as more like this:

"More American delights, sir?"
Their image was not helped by the fact that they described themselves as an "eatery", which tends to make people think of a room lined with feed troughs, rather than the type of place one feels enthusiastic about spending $70 on a bottle of wine.

Inevitably, the yawning chasm between diners' expectations and the reality of the restaurant was sufficient enough to keep the dining room empty roughly 90 per cent of the time, so I spent most nights doing stocktake (fairly simple when nothing actually gets used) and polishing tables that were already shinier than Alex Perry's head.

Yes, shinier than THIS.
After a while I got bored of being paid to stand around doing nothing on Saturday nights (I was young and stupid - now I'm in my 30s, this is actually my dream job description) so I quit, and the whole thing went down the gurgler not long after. I can't claim the two events were related, but... you know. I WAS a pretty good waitress.

Anyway apart from exceptional table-polishing skills, the eatery did teach me a few things.

Like the difference between Manhattan and Boston clam chowders (Manhattan is tomato based, Boston is cream based); and what "pulled pork" and "jerk chicken" are (hint: they're delicious, and not at all sexual); and how to deal with a drunk, depressed chef (you avoid him, no matter how much his manager wife begs you, a 19 year old, to pull him into line).

And about matzo ball soup. The Eatery served a delicious home-made version of this iconic Jewish dish and I used to eat it there most days before my shift. As far as I know they were the only place serving it in Adelaide, and it died there along with the manager's dreams.

So when I discovered this in my local supermarket (which, as I've previously discussed, is awesome) and discovered all it involved was egg and oil, I began to realise why the eatery's $12 version hadn't been too popular.

I tried to find one with increased sodium, but they were out.
Anyway it stayed in my kitchen cupboard for two whole months while I busied myself with being distracted by New York's incredible array of take-out options and not cooking anything at all, ever. Then today I got a cold, and it was MATZO BALL TO THE RESCUE!

Step one: Beat two eggs and two tablespoons of oil, then add the matzo mix, helpfully described as "packet one" on the box. Except neither of the two packets of powder had any markings, and there were no further instructions anywhere. I looked around for a nearby Jew to ask, but there were none. (And they say there are so many in New York - rubbish!).

I almost broke down from the mental turmoil this situation caused, but eventually guessed the more floury of the two powders was probably the matzo, and ended up with this, which looked right.

Very thick and sticky.
Step two: Put the matzo mix in the fridge for 15 minutes. In the meantime, boil 10 cups of water and add the soup mix (aka "packet two", aka "the packet you didn't use before").

Step three: With wet hands, roll the matzo mix into one-inch balls. Make sure you take the opportunity to make some jokes about small Jewish balls.

Cute little things.
Step four: Drop the balls in the boiling soup. Make a joke about dropping balls (here's one: "Oy vey, my balls just dropped!"). Turn the heat down, put a lid on the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

Step five: Open the lid and FREAK OUT at how much the balls have grown in size. And yes, make a joke about balls growing.

Don't plotz, they're supposed to look like this.
Step six: Bung in a bowl. Bite into a matzo ball and taste the rich, delicious egginess soaked in chickeny, salty soupness. Let eyes roll back in head. Feel flu symptoms start to subside.

Oy vey.

If you'd like to make matzo balls but can't find matzo meal, apparently you can substitute crushed up unsalted crackers. Then just follow this recipe.

1 comment :

  1. You should be a writer, not that I am a judge by any stretch of the imagination, but you had me in stitches (well smiling broadly). I am of to the shops to find a package of goodness. No rush though I have not got a flu yet. Cheers.