I’m a vegetarian. Okay, that’s a lie. I was a vegetarian for a couple of years until college, when I decided I didn’t want to limit myself. I didn’t want to find myself at a new friend’s house over some break only to have to turn down a meal that his or her parents were so graciously trying to feed me. That was one reason, and the other was living in Full House last year, where it was hard to say no when someone made something that had meat and said it was the greatest thing they had ever eaten.
I now consider myself a casual vegetarian: I don’t like to eat meat, and I try to avoid it, but I’m always willing to try something if someone says it’s especially good. The smell of bacon is not the ultimate distraction to me (with the sole exception of bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed figs), and I don’t associate unknown things with the taste of chicken.
Meat just doesn’t sit well with me. It seems to just take up residence in the bottom of my stomach and not go too far from there, so I tend to feel gross after eating it. These are things I figured out in my transition from vegetarian to “vegetarian.”
When I first went vegetarian, my mom told me that while she would make some exceptions for my silly dietary restrictions, she was not going to change all of her cooking habits. She also told me that if I ever go vegan that she would disown me. Strangely, I had a dream the other night in which she told me she thinks I should go vegan. I’m not sure why. But I digress.
Back to the subject at hand, my mom makes a soup every week, and I was always secretly convinced that she had been slipping chicken broth in with the vegetable. When I went to college, she explicitly told me (after I pried it out of her) that she does use chicken broth. I’ve decided to forgive her and also not care too much if a soup has a chicken-broth base.
As every good Jewish son should, I have sworn by and now adopted my mom’s recipe for chicken noodle soup, which can easily be adapted to matzo ball soup for the Passover season. After all, my mom’s is the best.
5-lb roast chicken (preferably kosher or organic)
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
11.5 baby carrots, or 3.67 medium carrots
1 yellow onion, halved
1/2 cup barley (optional)
1/2 cup lima beans (optional)
4 cups kosher chicken broth
salt and pepper, to taste (a lot)
Your favorite soup-appropriate pasta
1 cup matzo meal
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock or seltzer
1. For soup, rinse the chicken and place it in a large (at least 12-quart) pot with all of the vegetables and barley and lima beans, if using.
2. Add water until it just covers the chicken. Add chicken broth.
3. Bring water to boil and allow to simmer two to three hours.
4. If using noodles, add them about 30 minutes before you take the soup off the stove.
5. Add salt and pepper, to taste. You will probably need a lot.
6. For matzo balls, mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
7. Bring 3 quarts salted water to simmer in a separate pot.
8. With wet hands, roll dough into balls and drop into boiling water. Allow to cook 30-40 minutes.
9. Add matzo balls to soup. Serve warm!