Sunday, February 26, 2012

Snacking State-by-State: New York I - That's a Fluffy Matzah Ball!

New York is among the most ethnically diverse of all states, and so much of that diversity rests in the southernmost tip of the state, in New York City.  Almost half of all Empire Staters live in one of the five boroughs of the Big Apple, and they represent people from every country in the world.

Official Name: State of New York
State Nicknames: The Empire State
Admission to the US: July 26, 1788 (#11)
Capital: Albany (6th largest)
Other Important Cities: New York City (largest in the state, largest in the nation!), Buffalo (2nd largest), Rochester (3rd largest), Syracuse (5th largest) 
 Northeast, Mid-Atlantic; Mid-Atlantic (US Census)
RAFT Nations: Maple SyrupWild RiceClambake
Bordered by: Québec (Canada) (north), Lake Ontario (northwest), Ontario (Canada) & Lake Erie (west), Pennsylvania (south and southwest), New Jersey (south), Connecticut & Long Island Sound (southeast), Massachusetts & Vermont (east)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: apple (fruit), milk (beverage), sugar maple (tree - for the maple syrup), rose (flower - they are edible, you know), trout (fish), apple muffin (muffin), bay scallop (shell), beaver (mammal, though outside of "Bizarre Foods" you won't see many people eating these)
Some Famous and Typical Foods: In New York City, anything and everything - it is one of the most multicultural and diverse cities in the United States, and is a culinary capital of the nation; typical NYC foods include: Waldorf salad, bagels & bialys, corned beef and pastrami, chocolate egg creams, hot dogs, New York pizza, General Tso's chicken, Baked Alaska (invented in New York City), and so on; New York cheesecake; "garbage plate" (Rochester only); Buffalo wings (Buffalo of course); apples and maple syrup, and of course, more apples

New York City is a center of many ethnic and cultural communities in the United States, its being one of the busiest ports on the East Coast and a center of immigration.  Over a third of all New Yorkers were born outside the United States, if Wikipedia is correct. I refuse to quote Wikipedia, but the New York Times has one awesome map of the modern ethnic makeup of NYC, including racial, national origin and cultural info on where ethnic groups are now moving.  Among the largest and most notable ethnicities and cultural groups in New York: Eastern European Jewish, Indian, Puerto Rican (note: I'll be focusing on Puerto Rico for a whole few weeks later on in this series), Mexican, Chinese, Haitian, Dominican, Filipino, Korean, African-American, Jamaican, Arab, and so on (and also one of the largest LGBT communities in the US, where the start of the modern gay rights movement started right at the Stonewall Inn).  Queens is especially representative of this diversity, with a bevy of ethnic groups all clustered together in one space (just get off at the 74th St/Broadway subway station and see for yourselves).

One of the many ethnic communities that is centered in New York City is America's Jewish community.  As the Jews in America website - amazing site, by the way - points out, the majority of European Jewish immigrants came during the great wave from the 1880's through the 1910's.  The New York State Archives' Jewish History page points out today that:
New York State is the location of both the oldest and largest Jewish community in North America. With nearly 2 million Jews, New York City alone accounts for over one-third of all Jews in the United States. At present, New York City remains the principal port of entry and site of settlement for new Jewish immigrants to the United States including Iranian, Israeli and Russian Jews. New York City is widely viewed as both the organizational and cultural "capital" of the American Jewish community with the majority of major American Jewish organizations maintaining their offices in Manhattan. Indeed, New York City has played such an outstanding role in American Jewish history that it is often difficult to separate local New York Jewish history from the larger national picture. [Sussman, date unknown]
From there rises the question, "What is Jewish food?"  Hey, I didn't ask it.  Mimi Sheraton poses that very question in the intro to the voluminous New York Times Jewish Cookbook [2003].  She answers the question thus:
I submit that Jewish food is the world's oldest fusion cuisine... [The] Jewish kitchen developed naturally over centuries, as home cooks migrated with their native dishes, fused them with strange local products and food customs and with recipes of their new Jewish neighbors from other countries.  Despite the constant change, one food ritual has remained the same: kosher laws - kashruth - are the kitchen commandments, the acknowledged modifiers of secular influences. [Sheraton 2003]
That description works for me!

Many of New York City's favorite foods were contributed by its varied Jewish community: bagels (a national staple), bialys (not so national), deli foods (the famed 2nd Ave Deli boasts one of the most famous pastrami sandwiches in the City), knishes, matzah brei (think an omelette with pieces of matzah cooked into it), and of course the legendary matzah ball soup.  There is many a recipe for this last dish, from the New York Times to Ina Garten to Joan Nathan to perhaps many a Jewish grandmother.  When Adam Roberts, the Amateur Gourmet, tackled the legendary matzah ball he relied on Joan Nathan's version, with a few minor adjustments: boiling them in the broth (an Ina Garten suggestion), adding dill, and here's a good idea on making your chicken broth extra-chicken-y that he got from an Epicurious chicken broth recipe: boiling the chicken in pre-made chicken broth.  Adam says what's in everybody's head:
WHAT!?!? [Roberts 2008]
Adam continues:
I know, I know: how is that making soup? Well listen. You boil chicken IN that chicken broth and thus the broth gets twice as chickeny. It’s the chickeniest chicken soup you will ever taste...[my note: refer to the first photo on the page for this recipe on his blog]. And it takes 20 minutes to cook the chicken—that’s far more appealing than the three hours it takes (and the money it costs) to make it all from scratch. [Roberts 2008]
I don't have the luxury of time either, Adam.  I'm doing the shortcut.  But why buy extra chicken (there will be enough of that with my next few posts, trust me) when I have duck parts in the freezer?  Yes, dear reader, I ended up making the duckiest chicken broth ever!  Hey, it's still kosher.

The Recipe: Matzah Ball Soup (in Duck-Chicken Broth)

I pretty much stuck to Adam's recipe (cutting it in half), following the Epicurious recipe (which I made a quarter of) for the first twenty minutes of boiling.  I then struck out and made his matzah balls, which are surprisingly easy to make.  For this recipe you will need:

* matzah (or matzoh, or matzo) meal (you need this, and I was surprised that the Bel Air Wegman's - on the way home from work - didn't have it.  Here's a tale of two kosher sections: the Hunt Valley Wegman's has an extensive international section.  Their kosher section is massive - if you can't get to a kosher market, it doesn't matter, because Hunt Valley has whatever you need.  The Bel Air Wegman's also has a massive international section.  Their kosher section is about as large as my closet.  I have an average size closet.  So no matzah meal there.  I would've gone to Wegman's in Hunt Valley, but I decided to take no chances, and forged over to the 7 Mile Market in Pikesville, the Mid-Atlantic's largest kosher supermarket.  They had several brands of matzah meal.  I picked up Streit's brand for about $3.00)
* egg (you need a couple of them)
* salt (had it)
* seltzer (Adam suggests using this instead of chicken broth.  Heck, I had some left over from the mojito I made for the one Nevada post and added that)
* oil (or schmaltz - while at the 7 Mile Market, I found some schmaltz - rendered poultry, in this case chicken, fat - in the refrigerated section and could not resist.  It was only $3.50)
* dill (this is Adam Roberts' addition.  Had it.)
* And you also need some water.

You will also need some soup, made from:
* chicken broth (most of them are kosher, but I went ahead and bought Manischewitz at the 7 Mile Market for about $2.50)
* chicken (or in this case, leftover duck neck from the freezer.  I made a duck for Christmas, and would have put the photos up but my computer died right around the time I was about to put the photos.  I never got around to it.  Note: follow Alton Brown's technique for butterflying and prepping - basically koshering - a duck.  Works beautifully.)
* various vegetables & herbs (I added celery and carrots, and fresh sage)

For the matzah balls, you will first crack a few eggs into a bowl and mix them.

Next add your oil or schmaltz.

Follow that with water...

...your matzah meal...

...salt and pepper...

...and the dill.

Mix it thoroughly with a fork or spoon until blended...

...and you will get this goopy mess.  No problem: it's supposed to be this way.  Adam didn't know this at first.  He added a little more at first, but after reading Ina Garten's recipe (which says DO NOT DO THIS), he stopped.

So, how do you make matzah balls out of this?  Simple...

...refrigerate it for a few hours.  We will return to this in a bit.  Anywho, time to make the soup.

Empty the chicken broth into a large pot.

Chop up any veggies you want to add...

...and add them, along with your meat (in this case duck neck).

Oh yeah, and any herbs you want in there.  Bring to a boil, cover and cook for twenty minutes (or you will wind up with not as much broth, like I did.  Oopsie.  Though I guess it was alright in the end - it was more intense flavor wise)

After a few hours, your matzah mixture will be easy to shape into balls (or other shapes, I guess).

I halved Adam's recipe, and got precisely nine matzah balls of about this size.

Add your matzah balls to the boiling soup (or water, but hey, you have the soup already so why not just put it in there?)

Cover and cook for half an hour.

And you wind up with matzah balls that are a bit bigger than the itty bitty balls you had earlier.

How ridiculously easy is this matzah ball recipe?  I had no idea it was; I figured it would be difficult.  And what's more, they are fluffy little things, a perfectly round kind of dumpling.  It doesn't really absorb much of the flavor of the soup, but it does complement it.  And Adam is right: this is a more intense broth than if you just boil chicken in water.  Yes I know that's cheating, but hey it works anyway!


Anchor Bar.  "The Original Buffalo Wings Story".  Published 2008.  Copyright 2008 The Anchor Bar.  All rights reserved.

Beekman 1802 (Josh Kilmer-Purcell & Brent Ridge).  "December 12" (Maureen Lodes' Apple Cake).  Posted on the "Sharon Springs Heirloom Recipe Advent Calendar" page, Beekman 1802 website.  Copyright 2011, 2012 All rights reserved.

Beekman 1802 (Josh Kilmer-Purcell & Brent Ridge).  "Sharon Springs Heirloom Recipe Advent Calendar" page, Beekman 1802 website.  Copyright 2011, 2012 All rights reserved.

Bon Appétit.  "Old-Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup".  Posted on the Epicurious website, December 1998.  Copyright 1998, 2012 Epicurious.  All rights reserved.  

Center for Jewish History.  "Jews In America: Our Story".  Copyright 2005 Center for Jewish History.  All rights reserved.

Mannur, Anita.  "Indian Food in the US: 1909-1921".  Published on the South Asian American Digital Archive website October 18, 2011.  Copyright 2008-2012, South Asian American Digital Archive.  All rights reserved.

Mitzewich, John.  "Authentic Anchor Bar Buffalo Chicken Wings".  Published on, date unknown. Copyright 2012  All rights reserved.

Roberts, Adam (Amateur Gourmet).  "Fall Out Of Fall With A Matzah Ball".  Posted November 21, 2006.  Copyright 2004-2012 Adam Roberts.  All rights reserved.

Sahni, Julie.  Classic Indian Cooking.  William Morrow & Company: New York, 1980.

Sheraton, Mimi.  "Introduction: A Table Before Me".  In The New York Times Jewish Cookbook, edited by Linda Amster.  St. Martin's Press: New York, 2003.

Stradley, Linda.  "New York Egg Cream - How To Make An Egg Cream".  Published on What's Cooking America ( 2004.  Copyright 2004, 2012 What's Cooking America.  All rights reserved.

Suddath, Claire.  "A Brief History of Buffalo Wings".  Published on the Time Magazine website (, September 3, 2009.

Sussman, Lance J.  "Jewish History Resources: New York Jewish History".  Posted on the New York State Archives website, date unknown.  Copyright 2012 New York State Archives.  All rights reserved.

Stallworth, Lyn, and Rod Kennedy Jr. The Brooklyn Cookbook.  From the Knopf Cooks American series.  Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1991. 

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "New York" and "Demographics of New York City" pages and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "New York".