If your religion is food, then you should be thinking about how you can work chicken matzo ball soup into your schedule this week.

You can order a cup or bowl of this soul-soothing soup every Friday and Saturday at Back Street Bistro (513 Camino de los Marquez, 982-3500)—or any day during Passover (April 22-30).

Back Street owner David Jacoby doesn't really do Passover at home. "I come from a mixed marriage," he says, "plus, I have my own religion now: hard work and rock and roll!"

I talked to Jacoby about how he makes the soup at the restaurant and how he would make it at home. What we came up with here is a hybrid technique. Are there easier ways to make matzo ball soup? Sure. Are there better ways? Probably not.

David Jacoby’s Chicken Matzo Ball Soup

(serves 8-12)

Chicken Stock (makes about 2 quarts)

Make the stock two days before you plan to serve the soup. Jacoby uses fatty chicken parts so he can collect the fat (schmaltz) that hardens on top of the stock when it cools.

  • 4 pounds chicken backs, necks and/or wings
  • 3 quarts cold water
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black peppe
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Add all of the ingredients to a large stockpot and cover with cold water (it should cover the chicken by at least 1 inch). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest simmer and gently cook overnight, about 16 hours. Remove and discard the solids, then strain the warm stock through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Pour it into a clean container big enough to hold it, and refrigerate it until cold. When it's cold, the fat will have risen to the top. Scrape it off with a spoon into a covered container.

Matzo Balls (makes 16-18 golf ball-sized matzo balls)

The key here is using a gentle hand. Do not squash, smoosh or otherwise manhandle the dough. Plan to chill the dough for an hour, then form the balls and chill them for another hour.

  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ cup melted schmaltz (chilled chicken fat)
  • 1 cup matzo meal, preferably Streit’s
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ cup warm chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and melted schmaltz, gently mixing together with a rubber spatula. Stir in the matzo meal, parsley and nutmeg. Then add the chicken broth and stir just until it comes together into a dough. Don't mix any more than absolutely necessary.

Chill the mixture 1 hour. Roll the dough into 16-18 spheres a little smaller than a golf ball. Set them on a cookie sheet and chill for one hour. (You can make the balls bigger or smaller—you'll just have to cook them longer or shorter.)

Assembling the Soup

(serves 8-10)

Depending on how much chicken and how many matzo balls you put in each bowl, this soup can be a filling lunch or a light first course.

  • 3 pounds skinless chicken breasts and thighs
  • chicken stock
  • chilled matzo balls
  • 1 (12-ounce) package medium-wide egg noodles
  • 1 onion, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 carrots, chopped into 1-inch pieces

Add the chicken breasts and thighs to a pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove it from the heat and let it cool in the water until the next day. An hour before you're ready to serve, remove the chicken parts from the water. Bring the chicken cooking water back to a boil and add the matzo balls to the water. Gently simmer 45 minutes. When the chicken is just cool enough to handle, shred it into bite-sized pieces.

About 30 minutes before you're ready to serve, season the chicken stock to taste with salt and bring it to a simmer. Add the onion, celery and carrots, and cook about 10 minutes. Add the egg noodles and cook about 8 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and cook 3 minutes or just until heated through. Add two matzo balls to each bowl and surround with equal portions of chicken and vegetables. Pour hot stock over it all and serve.

Back Street Bistro
10 am-2:30 pm Monday-Friday,
Open Saturday 11 am-2 pm, closed Sundays
512 Camino de los Marquez