Martha’s Excellent Matzo Ball Soup Recipe

matzo ball soupThere might not be a more iconic use of chicken than in “Jewish penicillin,” homemade chicken soup. There’s actually some scientific explanation of why chicken soup has medicinal powers, but for me, it’s all about the taste. One of the best bowls of chicken soup you can find in New York is served nightly at Blue Ribbon, Eric and Bruce Bromberg’s wonderful restaurant. Their Grandma Martha’s soup is a mainstay on their menu, and her ethereal matzo balls are legendary. The Bromberg brothers write that her soup and matzo balls are “a return to simpler things, simple things that if done just so can transform life and lead to so much more.” With that introduction, we present Grandma Martha’s Excellent Soup and Matzo Ball recipe.

For the broth
1 whole 3 to 4 pound) hen
1 tbsp kosher salt
4 celery stalks with leaves, cleaned and chopped
3 carrots, cleaned and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped
3 whole unpeeled garlic cloves
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
3 sprigs dill
1/2 tspn whole black peppercorns
2 dried bay leaves

For the garnish
Carrot rounds (blanched until soft)
Chopped fresh dill
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Matzo balls
1 cup matzo meal
4 eggs
1 oz. rendered chicken fat (schmaltz)
1/2 oz. kosher salt
1/2 tspn double-acting baking powder
2 oz. seltzer


  1. For the broth: Rub chicken with kosher salt, inside and out. Let stand 15 minutes. Rinse well under cold water. Pat dry with paper towel. Put chicken in a large pot and cover with cold water by 3 inches. Bring to a boil. Impurities will rise to the top; skim them off and discard. Add the rest of the broth ingredients. Bring back to a boil, skim again, then reduce to simmer. After simmering for 45 minutes (or until chicken is cooked) remove chicken from the pot. Take the meat off of the bone (save meat for another meal) and put the bones back in pot and cook for 1 hour more. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth. Cool in the refrigerator. When cool, the fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy to remove.
  2. For the matzo balls: In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients except the seltzer and mix well. Add seltzer and set the mixture aside, covered, in the refrigerator, for 1 hour. Fill a large-diameter pot three quarters full with water and bring to a simmer. With wet hands roll the matzo mixture into 1-ounce balls. Lower balls into water on a slotted spoon. Cook until the matzo balls are tender, 45 to 60 minutes (test with toothpick or do what Eric Bromberg does and cut in half). The balls should be light and fluffy in the center. Let the matzo balls cool.
  3. For soup: Bring the broth to a boil with the carrot rounds, the dill, and the matzo balls. Season to taste. The soup is ready to serve when the matzo balls are warm in the center.
Serves 8 to 10

Start to Finish: Under 2 1/2 hours

Recipe courtesy of The Kosher Carnivore: The Ultimate Meat and Poultry Book by June Hersh

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