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Matzo adds twist to chicken and dumplings

It’s hot. I mean, it’s cold. I mean it’s snowing. Argh, now it’s sleeting.  
Welcome to Delmarva Winter the way it used to be. Ah, the golden days on the Shore; when winter is merely a hiccup between our amazing autumn and the always-welcome spring. We have been spoiled the last few years with tremendous snowfall, and yes I am in the minority that wishes that there was at least one mountain down here for snowboarding and sledding.
Regardless, it is time to make some soup for these rusty old bones, but luckily our kids are coming around the bend in terms of liking homemade broths and soups.  
It all started at a Japanese steak house when the tykes fell in love with the chicken broth with scallions and shaved mushrooms. We used that as a launching pad and began regularly offering it for their school lunches and eventually daring to make it from scratch. Yes, my kids prefer canned soups, or at least they did.
After some prodding, I was convinced to make some homemade chicken soup, but not the ‘brown’ stuff I usually make, because that tastes like gravy. Whipping up some fresh chicken soup proved to be acceptable to the masses, so it has stayed on our rotation throughout the winter season if you can call it that.
Lately, I’ve been craving a good matzo ball soup, one of my favorite chicken soups, but one I have not made since I worked in restaurants. So, I picked up some matzo meal at the store along with a fresh chicken and some mirepoix, and I set out to recreate that famous dish of chicken and dumplings (well, I might get some emails about calling them dumplings, but they are, kind of).
When I served this to the family, I did add a mountain of shaved button mushrooms, now a standard in the house. This adds a lovely, full flavor to the broth and only adds to the overall complexity of this simple dish.
So as the next storm breezes through, bringing with it that bone-aching, joint-screeching dampness, make sure to boil up a chicken, as my mom used to say, and create the nectar that warms to the core.  And with some substance added to the soup via the matzo balls, it becomes a no-brainer until spring, when the cold soups will start making their rounds.

Matzo Ball Soup
4 servings
1 ½ qt. Chicken soup (recipe follows)
8 ea. Matzo balls (recipe follows)
Place 2 matzo balls in each soup bowl
Ladle soup over and serve while hot

Chicken Soup

1 whole chicken
2 stalks celery, large chunks
1 large white onion, quartered
2 carrots, peeled and large chunks
1 parsnip, peeled and large chunk
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
Celery and carrots, brunoise for garnish

Swaying from conventional wisdom, I must advise you to cook your chicken stock much longer than the traditional three hours. When we buy rotisserie chicken, I’ll make a brown stock with the leftovers and let it go overnight.
Put all ingredients in a stockpot, and cover with water until it is an inch and a half over the top part.  Even better, if you have some chicken stock in the freezer from a previous batch, start with that, or if you are really cool you can start with remouillage, but that’s for a different conversation altogether.
Bring the water to a low boil, and turn down to a simmer, skimming the froth as you go. Be careful not to remove too much of the fat, since you will be using this to make the matzo balls.
Once you have the simmer regulated, let it for at least six hours and preferably overnight
Strain and reserve or serve immediately with your garnish of brunoise, celery, carrot and shredded chicken.
OK, I can’t let this remouillage (remi) thing go. If you have time, top your spent bones and veggies from the stock with more water, just to the top. Bring to a simmer and cook for about three hours. Then strain this and freeze until your next batch of stock. If you do this regularly, you will have an amazing, unctuous and wonderful stock

Matzo Balls
Makes enough for 4 people
4 eggs
¼ c. Chicken fat
¼ c. Water
1 c. Matzo meal
Salt to taste
Beat the eggs and add the fat, water and meal, adding salt at the end to your preference.
This might be a little loose, so let it set up in the icebox for at least two hours. It could be made a day ahead, and the meal will continue to hydrate.
Bring a pot of fairly heavily salted water to a boil and add the balls.
Reduce to a medium simmer, cover with a cloth (caution if you have gas flames) and a lid.
Allow to steam for thirty minutes or until fluffy and cooked through.
You can let them steep in the chicken soup if you like or serve immediately.