Posted March 24, 2011

Danny Bortnick’s Chicken Matzoh Ball Soup

Eat + Drink

Even as spring shows its sunny face, we still turn to warming comfort foods. A favorite? Matzoh ball soup. The Passover tradition found on menus year ‘round is like a motherly hug in a bowl. That’s especially true of the version executive chef Danny Bortnick serves at Firefly restaurant in Washington D.C.

“[I make it how] I remember seeing my mom make it, and how she remembers seeing her mom make it, etc. There is no single ‘recipe’ per se. I’m sure everyone puts their spin on it,” says Bortnick, noting that his spin is adding fresh dill to the matzoh balls.

Not only is the soup tasty, it’s curative, Bortnick furthers. “I always have it when I feel sick; I think that goes for every culture’s ‘soup.’ We eat it at every Jewish holiday, so I always associate it with family getting together for a big meal … it’s symbolic and a tradition. So much more than ‘just soup.’”

Get your ladles out. The chef shares his family recipe here.

Yields 20 servings

Soup Ingredients

4 organic chicken carcasses
4 cups yellow onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
6 garlic cloves, cut in half
8 sprigs thyme
8 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
2 cups carrots, chopped and placed in a cheese cloth bag
to taste salt and pepper
4 quarts cold water

1. Place everything in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 45 minutes (no more!).

2. Skim fat off the top. Strain the fat and adjust the seasoning. Reserve it for the matzoh balls.

3. Remove carrots from the cheesecloth, pass them through a food mill, and add them to the soup.

Matzoh Balls Ingredients
Yields 20

16 organic eggs
1 cup reserved chicken fat, melted
1 cup seltzer water
2 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. pepper
½  cup dill, chopped
4 cups matzoh meal

1. Mix eggs. Add chicken fat, seltzer water, salt, pepper, and dill. Mix thoroughly.

2. Add matzoh meal and mix well. Refrigerate for one hour.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. With a two-ounce ice cream scooper, scoop balls and drop them into water. (Crowding the pot is okay to a point, but overcrowding can lead to misshapen matzoh balls.) Simmer covered for 45 minutes then shock in ice water.

4. When cool, store the matzoh balls in Ziplock bags, dating them. Reheat in the soup.

Want to taste it straight from the chef himself? Go to Firefly, 1310 New Hampshire Avenue, Washington D.C. (202-861-1310 or


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