The Mexican saying La mejor comida Mexicana es la que se come en la calle y en la casa, meaning “The best Mexican food is the food we eat on the street and at home,” came to mind when I spoke to Pati Jinich in the studio recently. Pati lives in Washington, D.C. but grew up in Mexico City and is headed back there to shoot the next season of her James Beard-nominated PBS series, “Pati’s Mexican Table.”
Pati and I talked about how her Jewish-Mexican roots inform the recipes in her latest cookbook, “Mexican Today: New and Rediscovered Recipes for Contemporary Kitchens.” I can’t wait to try her riff on matzo ball soup with mushrooms and jalapeños. Pati seasons the matzo balls with nutmeg and parsley just as her grandmother did. Then she puts her own take on the recipe by adding sesame oil and a dash of sparkling water to keep the matzo balls from getting too dense. The jalapeños in the broth give this soup some kick!
Matzo Ball Soup with Mushrooms & Jalapeños
(Bolas de Matzá con Hongos y Chiles)
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
Matzo Ball Ingredients
1 cup matzo ball mix (or two 2-oz packages)
2 tbsps flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
4 large eggs
3 qt salted water (for cooking the matzo balls)
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
8 tbsps canola or safflower oil
2 tbsps toasted sesame oil
2 tbsps sparkling water
½ cup white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 jalapeño chiles, finely chopped and seeded, if desired
8 oz white and/or baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
8 cups Homemade Chicken Broth (recipe follows below), or store-bought is fine, too
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
For the matzo balls: In a large bowl, combine the matzo ball mix, parsley, nutmeg and ¾ teaspoon of salt. In a separate small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with 6 tablespoons of the canola oil and the sesame oil. Fold the beaten eggs into the matzo ball mixture using a rubber spatula. Add the sparkling water and mix until well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
For the soup: Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeños and cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, until they have softened a bit. Stir in the mushrooms and ¾ of a teaspoon of salt, cover and steam the mushrooms for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the lid and cook uncovered until the liquid in the pot evaporates.
Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Taste and season with salt, to taste.
Cook the matzo balls: Meanwhile, when ready to cook the matzo balls, bring about 3 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil in a large pot over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and keep at a steady simmer.
With wet hands, shape the matzo ball mixture into 1- to 1½-inch balls and gently drop them into the water. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until the matzo balls are completely cooked and have puffed up. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the soup. Serve.
Note: This soup can be made up to 3 days ahead. To store, cover and refrigerate.
Chicken Broth & Shredded Cooked Chicken
(Caldo de Pollo y Pollito Deshebrado)
Commercial chicken broths just can’t compare to homemade if you prefer richer flavored soups. This easy recipe is one that will provide you with extra stock and shredded chicken for the week. Jinich says you can add the chicken to antojitos (snacks), salads, soups, stews and casseroles, while using any remaining broth in soups, pastas, rice dishes and stews. Or, add flavor and moisture to leftover chicken by dousing it with broth after taking it out of the refrigerator.
Yield: Makes about 8 cups broth and 6 cups shredded chicken
Chicken Broth Ingredients
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces (or 3 pounds mixed chicken pieces with skin and bones)
3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 white onion, halved
3 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
1 garlic clove
6 black peppercorns
5 or 6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
½ tsp dried marjoram
½ tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp kosher or sea salt, to taste
3½ qts water
Place all of the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, skimming off any foam. Simmer partially covered for 50 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool.
Remove the chicken pieces and transfer to a bowl. Strain the broth into a container and refrigerate, or freeze in smaller containers.
Remove the skin and bones from the chicken and shred or cut the meat into chunks for further use. Cover and refrigerate, if not using immediately.
To store: The cooked chicken keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The chicken broth can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 6 months.
Text excerpted from “Mexican Today,” © 2016 by Pati Jinich. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.