Joan Nathan’s Chicken Soup with Matzah Balls recipe



Joan Nathan, author of 10 cookbooks, including “Jewish Cooking in America

For Nathan, it’s all about the chicken soup. This recipe is courtesy of her 103-year-old mother, Pearl. Nathan explains the recipe is a bit of a mashup of various cultures: “She loves getting chicken specials, and [she] also loves dark meat, so she adapted the recipe to what she likes to eat,” Nathan said. “Because she lives in Rhode Island and escarole is a very Italian vegetable [Rhode Island has a large Italian-American population] and her matzo balls, coming from my father’s German tradition, are deliciously al dente.”


(From “The New American Cooking,” reprinted with permission from Knopf)


For the soup:

  • 6 whole chicken legs
  • 20 cups water
  • 2 celery stalks sliced into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 whole carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 large onion peeled and quartered
  • 1 parsnip cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces escarole

For the matzah balls:

  • 3 tablespoons chicken fat or vegetable oil
  • 6 large eggs, separated well beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 cups matzah meal
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 12 cups water


To make the soup:

1. Put the water in a soup pot, add the chicken legs and bring the water to a boil. Simmer slowly for 2 hours, uncovered, skimming off the fat and foam as they rise to the top of the soup.

2. After 2 hours, add the celery, carrots, onion, parsnip, dill and parsley. Continue cooking slowly, uncovered, for another hour.

3. Set a strainer over a large bowl and strain the soup. Season it to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate the soup, covered, overnight.

4. The next day peel off the layer of fat that has formed on the soup’s surface. Bring the soup to a boil in a large pot (or freeze it for another day). Before serving, swirl in the escarole and add the matzah balls (recipe follows), cooking for a few minutes.

To make the matzah balls:

1. In a medium bowl, mix the chicken fat or vegetable oil with the eggs, salt, nutmeg, matzah meal and parsley. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

2. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Take the matzah mix out of the refrigerator and, after dipping your hands into a bowl of cold water, gently form balls the size of large walnuts. Add salt to the water and drop in the balls. Simmer slowly, covered, for about 20 minutes, remove from water with a slotted spoon and add to the soup.