Chicken soup is de rigueur at Passover. And with Passover looming, I called Papa. His chicken soup is a lot like my chicken soup, only better.
He was happy to spill. "It's very simple," he enthused. "It's the Jewish way from Eastern Europe with all the vegetables. Should I tell you what kind of vegetables I use? Turnips."
I listened and scribbled.
"Parsnip. Petrozilia. You could find it in the Korean grocery or Italian markets. It looks like a parsnip but with green on it."
Never heard of it.
"The other one is leek. Wash it out good. And also curly parsley. And carrots, of course. A couple cloves of garlic. Salt. And a lot of peppercorns.
"When you put in all the vegetables and the chicken and start boiling, a lot of foam comes to the top. You clear all that foam off. Finally, it's clear. That's gonna be the soup.
"Listen, as you're cooking, give me a call and we'll talk. And if you're going to make matzo balls, you buy the Streit's matzo ball mix. You just follow exactly what's written on the box. And it's delicious."
And it was. But not as delicious as the original.
Papa's chicken soup
Prep: 45 minutes
Cook: 2 hours
Serves: At least 8
1 4-pound chicken
4 carrots, peeled, cut into chunks
3 stalks celery, cut into chunks
2 parsnips, peeled, cut into chunks
2 turnips, peeled, cut into chunks
1 petrozilia (parsley root), peeled, cut into chunks (optional)
2 whole cloves garlic
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 leek, split, washed
½ bunch curly parsley
3 carrots, cut into 2-inch-long, 1/4-inch-thick sticks
Matzo ball mix, prepared as directed on the box
8 teaspoons snipped fresh dill
1. Skim: Settle chicken in a large soup pot. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons salt. Pour in 5 quarts cold water. Simmer, skimming foam frequently off surface, about 15 minutes.
2. Simmer: Add carrots, celery, parsnips, turnips, petrozilia, garlic and peppercorns. Partially cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes. Pull out breast meat; set aside. Add leek and parsley to the soup pot, cook another 30 minutes.
3. Strain: Strain soup. Discard meat and vegetables.
4. Finish: Half an hour before you're ready to serve, get out a large pot. Scoop in 2 cups of the finished broth. Add 4 cups water and 1 tablespoon salt. Heat to a boil. With wet hands, roll about 24 matzo balls and drop them in. Add carrot sticks. Cover, lower heat and let simmer 25 minutes. Meanwhile, reheat broth.
5. Serve: Shred reserved chicken and divide into 8 soup bowls. Dust each portion with 1 teaspoon dill. Add 2 matzo balls and several carrot sticks to each bowl. Scoop in hot broth. Enjoy.