We got our first celery root (also called celeriac) of the season at Dunbar Gardens last week! Possibly the ugliest and least edible looking vegetable around, but it has a beautiful, delicate celery flavor. I love what it does for chicken soup, especially matzoh ball soup.
I didn’t have matzoh growing up – I don’t think I even saw it until I went to a seder in California when I was 21 (yes, I was the youngest person there – I got to read the questions!) So I don’t have many preconceived notions of what matzoh ball soup should be like – I know it’s traditionally just carrots, chicken stock and matzoh balls, but I like my soup to have a little more oomph. So I generally put chicken meat in, and usually celery root for flavor and peas or spinach for color. For the balls, I just follow the recipe on the box – matzoh meal, eggs, oil, seltzer and salt, mix with a fork, leave in the fridge for an hour while you get the soup going. No big secret family recipe. Unless my family wants to give me one, of course…
Note about cutting up celery root: it’s so knobbly and hairy that it doesn’t pay to be overly careful. I just whack the edges off so it becomes a sort of cube, then dice from there.
My soup recipe is very straightforward when it’s going to have matzoh balls in it. I cook diced carrot and celery root in olive oil until they are soft and a little browned. If I’m not using cooked leftover chicken, I add cut up boneless thigh meat and cook it with the vegetables and some salt and pepper. I pour chicken stock over everything and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Then I make sure the broth is just at a boil, drop in the matzoh balls, cover the pan and turn the heat down to low, and leave it alone for 15-20 minutes, until the balls fluff up and bob to the surface. Sometimes at this point I’ll add a handful of frozen chopped spinach to add color.
This soup is seriously comforting, but be careful with the first few bites – a boiling hot matzoh ball will take the skin right off the roof of your mouth!