In Praise of Potato Kneidlach – Just in time for Pesach!
My mother makes the best matzoh ball soup in the entire world, just like yours does (assuming your mom makes matzoh ball soup, that is). This is how it works. We each love the version of this soup that nourished us as children, that bowl of comfort, healing, and maternal worry/love. My children fill me with joy when they refuse to eat anyone else’s matzoh ball soup, even while I wish they’d be more polite about it.
When we went gluten-free over four years ago, matzoh balls were one of the few things I really missed (along with banh mi, graham crackers, and home-braided challah). I tried a few different recipes before I found the Potato Kneidlach recipe at Gluten-Free Bay, which is in turn based on a recipe from Nira Rousso’s The Passover Gourmet.
Potato kneidlach were just what I was looking for. They’re delicious and they have just the weight I like, right in between bottom-of-the-bowl sinker and fluffy floater. On their first day, they have a subtle baked potato sort of flavor; if you let them sit overnight in the fridge, suspended in the soup, they take on more of a matzoh flavor and texture. If you make too much batter, turn the leftovers into pancakes – Our favorite version is Nettle Potato Pancakes.
We’ve been able to reintroduce some gluten into our diet, but we’re not going back to matzoh balls; we prefer these potato kneidlach. So, the matzoh ball soup my kids are being raised on is a hybrid of my mother’s and mine. The broth-vegetable-parsley ratio is all hers, the gluten-free potato kneidlach are my twist.
Potato Kneidlach, aka Gluten-Free Matzoh Balls
- 4 medium-large potatoes; Russets are best, but you can mix a few other types in there
- 1/4 cup grapeseed or olive oil
- 4 large eggs (1 cup by volume if you’re using backyard eggs of various sizes)
- 2/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons potato starch
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1″ square chunks. Boil them gently until tender, then push them through a ricer or mash them well.
When the potatoes have cooled, add the oil, eggs, potato starch, and salt. Stir well and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. If the chilled dough is still soupy (not able to hold a blob shape on a spoon), add more potato starch as necessary, a tablespoon at a time.
When the kneidlach batter has firmed up, it’s time to get on with the soup.
Granita’s Matzoh Ball Soup
- Chicken broth, as much as you’d like. I use at least 1 quart for a family batch of soup
- Carrots, sliced into rounds about 1/2″ thick, at least 4 large
- Celery, sliced about 1/2″ thick, at least 4 large ribs
- Garlic, at least 4 cloves
- Fresh Italian parsley, at least one good handful, finely chopped
Make the Soup and the Kneidlach
- When your potato kneidlach have been chilled, you’re ready to make it all come together. On one burner, heat the chicken broth and simmer the carrots, celery, and garlic until the carrots and celery are tender.
- On another burner, bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil. Using a regular old soup spoon from your tableware set, scoop the potato kneidlach batter into the boiling water, dropping each free-form ball gently into its bath.
- Set a timer for 5 minutes when you drop the last kneidlach into the water. They’ll float to the top almost immediately, but give them a few gentle stirs to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom, and to flip them over at least once. When the timer goes off, use a slotted spoon to remove one kneidlach at a time, depositing each one into the hot broth and vegetables on the adjacent burner.
- The soup is ready to eat now, or you can keep in on the stove on low for while you’re working your way through your Passover seder. Just before serving, stir in the chopped parsley.
- Serve at least two balls and a good assortment of carrots and celery in each bowl. Allow each person to add freshly ground black pepper to taste.