Chicken soup with collards and creole matzoh balls

Serves about 8

Deliciously spicy matzoh balls plus earthy collard greens and the pot liquor they give off make Southern magic in this homey chicken soup. You can use a readymade creole seasoning mix for the matzoh balls, if you wish, but you may need to adjust the salt in the recipe. The larger amount of fat or oil will give you richer-tasting, creamier matzoh balls  that are slightly denser and heavier; using less will yield dumplings that are lighter and  more delicate. So choose the amount of fat according to your preference.      

For the matzoh balls:

4-5 tablespoons chicken fat (schmaltz), at room temperature, or an equal quantity of olive or avocado oil

1/2 cup finely chopped scallions (white and light green parts)

1 ½ teaspoons finely minced or grated garlic

About 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons flavorful paprika

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne

½ teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup matzoh meal (you can substitute up to 1/4 cup finely ground skinned almonds for an equal quantity of the matzoh meal)

broth for cooking the matzoh balls (you can use low-sodium purchased; best if “doctored up” a bit), or less desirably, salted water

For the soup:

about 10 cups homemade chicken broth

1 pound collard greens, tough stems removed and discarded, leaves coarsely chopped

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

 Make the matzoh balls. Sauté the scallions in 1 tablespoon of the fat or oil until softened. Add the garlic and sauté another minute or two. Stir in the spices and cook 1 minute. Add the parsley and let cool.

          In a large bowl, beat the eggs and remaining fat or oil until well blended and thick. Stir in the cooled scallion mixture and mix very well. Stir the matzoh meal into the egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours; overnight is even better--so the matzoh meal can fully absorb the liquids and seasoning.

            When you are ready to cook the matzoh balls, fill a large, very wide pot with a lid with the broth or salted water. Bring to a boil.

            Very gently shape the batter into walnut- or olive-size balls using two teaspoons, a mini-scoop, or your hands, but avoid handling them too much. Don’t pack them firmly; a light touch is essential. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with pretty, but dense dumplings.

            Place the balls on a platter. When the broth or water comes to a rapid boil, reduce the heat a bit. Carefully slide the balls in one at a time. Or you can form the balls using two spoons and drop them right into the water. The matzoh balls need plenty of space to move around and expand, so don’t crowd the pot--if necessary, prepare the matzoh balls in two batches or use two pots. When the liquid returns to a gentle boil, stir the matzoh balls lightly with a wooden spoon, then cover the pot tightly and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 45 to 60 minutes, without removing the lid. (They will cook by direct heat as well as by steam, which makes them swell up--lifting the lid will reduce some of that steam.) Test for doneness: remove a matzoh ball and cut it in half. It should be tender, fluffy, and completely cooked through. If it isn’t, continue cooking for a few more minutes.

            Remove the matzoh balls gently with a skimmer or a large slotted spoon--they are too fragile to pour into a colander.

           While the matzoh balls are cooking, bring the chicken broth to a simmer. Add the collard greens and the crushed red pepper, and cook for about 20 minutes. Check the soup for seasoning, then add the drained matzoh balls, and simmer for another 5 minutes or so, until collards are tender and everything is piping hot.

Sephardic or Askhenazi