Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Passover Food! Matzoh balls! Fruit balls! Chicken meat balls!

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"Balls" pretty much sums up my Passover meal preparation this year.
Except the brisket.  I didn't make brisket balls.  That can only end in tears.
And the bark.  Okay, maybe "balls" isn't the best summary word.

The past two years we were living in The South, and I was responsible for making Seder happen both nights.  It was crazy, fun, and a serious challenge.

This year, being surrounded by family and tradition, I was responsible for very little.  Matzoh bark, brisket, and some other dessert.

I also made chicken stock for our own matzoh ball soup.  Just as I was gearing up for a ridiculously underwhelming week-before-Passover, we all got a wicked bug that took us out of the game Tuesday.

I'm not going to relive all this for you (it would be terribly boring) but I will share with you two recipes and a secret.

First, matzoh balls.
For my first-ever Passover, I made matzoh balls and I did so using matzoh meal.  I learned 2 things that year: First, that matzoh meal is crushed up matzoh (nobody told me!) and a total rip-off, and that nobody makes matzoh balls from scratch and expects them to float.  They were horrible.  I cried salty tears into my salty soup.

I did what anyone would do - interrogated my husband's Jewish grandmother until I got answers.
It took years before she would give me the whole matzoh ball shebang, but on the day of my conversion she gave me The Secret, and here I am, blasting it across the interwebs.
First, use the box mix.  We use Manischewitz.  Follow the recipe on the box with two exceptions (the first is Grandma's, the second, my own.  First, add 2 tsp of oil more than the 2 Tbs the recipe calls for.  The oil should be vegetable. Second, don't use water to cook the balls. Once you have your stock made (and freeze part of it) add water and a pack of (kosher for Passover) onion soup mix, and bring it to a boil.  Peel and dice your carrots, toss them in, and then use that broth to cook your matzoh balls.  Drop the formed balls (slightly smaller than golf balls - they puff up) one at a time into the broth and once it returns to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and don't even look at it for at least 20 minutes.

That's the secret.

Seders involve so much food that a matzoh ball is all you really need in the soup.  However, when Passover Day 4 hits and you have a vat of matzoh balls and no desire for more brisket, you're going to need more than a matzoh ball for dinner.

Chicken Meatballs For Soup
You can put these in any soup, or serve with sauce for a healthy alternative to beef.

You will need:
1 lb ground chicken
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 pinches of garlic powder
1 tsp Herbs de Provence, Bouqui Garni, or 1/2 tsp cracked rosemary + 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 piece of matzoh, crushed (or processed in a blender) to breadcrumb consistency
1 egg
(If you are not kosher, you can add 3 or 4 Tbs of Parmesan cheese)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Put all of the above ingredients in a bowl and mix together with your fingers.  Don't overwork the meat - just loosely mix it all together.

Roll mixture into balls about the size of ping pong balls and drop into a nonstick pan over medium heat.  Brown the balls on all sides before popping into the oven.  (You can skip the browning and extend the oven time, but the balls may not hold up as well in the broth if you store them that way.)

Bake in the oven until cooked through - mine usually take 15-20 minutes, but this depends heavily on your browning.  Since these are chicken, cut one open to check.  It is far better to have overcooked them slightly than to give everyone food poisoning.

Once done, toss into your broth.  Now your matzoh ball soup includes protein!  Hooray!

Fruit Truffles
They aren't really truffles, but you make them in a similar fashion.  Only these are much easier to make.

I served them as dessert, but in Morocco they eat these as charoset, having mixed in some chunkier chopped nuts.  Either way, they are vital to your seder.  Matzoh is made of flour and water.  That's it. You know what else is made of just flour and water?  Paper mache.  You need some dried fruit to counteract that.  It might as well be delicious.

1 c. dried apricots*
1 c. dried, pitted dates*
1/4 c. dried currants or raisins*
1/2 c. almond meal
1.5 Tbs honey
cinnamon sugar, in a bowl

*It is easier to find dried fruit that is kosher for Passover if you look for whole pieces as opposed to diced.

Blend the fruits and honey in your food processor until they are mush, or close to it.  You're going to want to do this in small batches.  You don't want to burn out the motor on your machine.
Stir in the almond meal.

I had a bowl of water (for keeping fingers wet - makes balling these up so much easier), the mix, the sugar, and the storage container.  Just dip your fingers, roll a ball, roll in sugar, put in the container.  Repeat.  Mine were about the diameter of a quarter.  I also rerolled them in the sugar, as the first got sappy quickly.

Next time, I'm going to stir in some coconut or roll them in coconut.

Look at how perfectly all 40 of them fit perfectly into my container!  
(My inner nerd is showing, isn't it.  Sorry.)

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