The Matzo Ball
Put a little schmaltz in your balls.
Those unschooled in Yiddish, might suspect that I am suggesting you add a little fire to your life, a spring in your step, a little chutzpah to your decisions. Yes, that too. However, schmaltz is the yiddish word for chicken fat and we are talking matzo balls.
For the past months I have been raving about my delicious matzo ball soup in advertisements for my cooking classes. I named it Chick-sa Soup (Chicken Soup Easy Enough for Shiksas*). The title did offend some, but since I came up with the catchy wording with my dear friend Caitlin, a self-defined shiksa of unparalleled order (a blond-haired, blue-eyed Texan who, much to the dismay of her parents, married a man with the last name of Cohen), I decided to ignore the upset.
Jews own the domain of chicken soup, just like the Italians own the domain of pasta and Mexicans own the domain of the tortilla. If a Baptist automotive group held a class called “Emergency Tire Change So You Don’t Get Killed On a Lone Highway Easy Enough for a JAP,” I promise you, I would happily sign up!
But the truth is, I had never even made a matzo ball in my life. The closest I had ever come to making a matzo ball was watching Angie, our family’s housekeeper, make a batch according to package instructions. Who am I to profess expertise on the subject? Who am I to claim that my matzo balls are soooo easy that even a non-Jewish woman could make them? With what chutzpah do I permit such presumption!? Good lord, I’m walking around like I got schmaltz in my balls.
Having to deliver an easy and extraordinarily delicious recipe to my students that held up to my lofty proclamations presented me with the ultimate challenge. And ultimately, that is the game I love to play most in my job.
I have now explored the far and wide frontiers of the matzo ball. I have read countless recipes and endless explanations. The juries all point to the same factor: Put a little schmaltz in your balls.
I choose duck fat as it is a more indulgent choice. (For those hypochondriacs who are already in the hospital for heart failure just for hearing this, I would have you know that the French, who have an overwhelmingly better state of heart health than we do, consider duck fat to be part of a heart healthy diet as it contains a unique type of saturated fat that is actually considered to be beneficial. That said, those who are following the new American movement to fry foods in duck fat, no promises kiddos.)
These matzo balls are incredibly flavorful and quite easy to make….Easy enough for Jewish women, who nowadays are in fact some of the worst cooks I know!
*Note: I would encourage you to read Bon Appetit’s Matzo Ball 101 which highlights Associate Food Editor and Matzo-Ball-Master Selma Brown Morrow’s best tips for perfect balls. I thank her as much of my recipe below is owed to her expertise, gained from years of feeding her family.
*A shiksa is a yiddish word for a non-Jewish girl or woman. It traditionally has a negative connotation to it. However, much of the negative connotation comes from a certain jealous belief that non-Jewish women are more beautiful and could be a possible threat to Jewish women. For example, “Do you know Jonathan Goldstein? He’s not married but he’s dating a shiksa.” Shiksa, like goy, which is the general yiddish term for a non-Jew, points to non-Jewish men and women as outsiders. It is my hope, that by using these old Yiddish words in a playful new way, I will invite all to come inside for a little meal and a spiel.