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Pati Jinich

My grandfather on my mother’s side, Francisco, whom we called “Yeye,” was wild about chiles. Not very common in his native Bratislava, I guess. He used to say that what he loved the most about his new country was the predictable weather (especially the bright sunny winters), the colorful markets, and most of all, the chiles. All of them.

He was oh so very crazy about them that my grandmother used to hide them from him. She complained about him having no boundaries, no sense of measure, when eating them. He simply would not stop.

But he knew all the tricks, discover all the hide outs, and stuff them in his pockets. Seriously. Not only fresh jalapeños or serranos but also wet pickled jalapeños... Those must have been some messy pockets to wash…

My “Lali,” liked to please him though. She had Austrian training in the kitchen and made exquisite and elegant foods. Once in Mexico, she fell in love with the cuisine and learned how to combine the two culinary traditions. And she was a master at it.

She created a classic dish out of her Mushroom-Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup.

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See? Just because you add a chile to something does not mean it gets a Mexican stamp. You have to know how to add it. How much to add. And most importantly, when to add and when not to….not every dish that is Mexican has a chile in it either.

She made a mushroom base with a traditional Mexican treatment. Gently cooked onion, garlic and chopped jalapeños (with the seeds please…), and once the mushrooms are added, the pot is covered so they will steam. Their liquids come out, then slowly dry up again and the mushrooms begin to brown.

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Of the thousands of ways to use chiles, steaming them with other ingredients for a while brings out their flavor in a subtle way. Then she poured her chicken broth on top, which always had the perfect nutty tone that reflected its depth of flavor.

Her Matzo balls were fluffy, round and simply seasoned with some parsley (which has been growing so happily in my garden). That mushroom base from the photo above, seems to delight itself in the company of parsley…

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Grated nutmeg is also added to the matzo ball mix. And that is enough, no need to add freshly ground black pepper.

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The eggs are the glue that holds the matzo balls together, combined with a bit of oil…

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Then she had a trick to make the matzo balls fluffy. That is, if you like them fluffy. Which most of my family does.

It seems that the main division in the matzo ball world, is between those that like the matzo balls hard and those that like them fluffy. Cooks debate all the time on how to make them fluffy or hard: more egg or less egg, more oil or less oil, matzo meal or matzo mix…

My grandmother’s trick to make them fluffy was to add sparkling water. But just a tablespoon for a full recipe, if you add more, you have a messy mess that falls apart. And I always leave a bit of the mix apart without any, as it happens, I am the only one around here that likes them hard…

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As much as my grandfather begged, my grandmother added little jalapeños. She argued, that one needs to taste everything else, which in principle sounds right. But if he were here, I would make him an extra batch, with as many jalapeños I could find in my backyard. And there are oh so many…

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MUSHROOM AND JALAPEÑO SOUP
Serves 6-8 (makes 10 to 12 medium to large sized matzo balls)

INGREDIENTS
1 cup matzo ball mix
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
4 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sparkling water, optional, to make the matzo balls fluffy
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
jalapeño chiles, finely chopped, seeded optional, more or less to taste
1/2 pound white mushrooms, wiped clean with cloth, sliced
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
8-10 cups chicken broth

TO PREPARE
In a large mixing bowl, combine the matzo ball mix, parsley, nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon of salt. In another small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with 1/3 cup of vegetable oil. Fold in the beaten eggs to the matzo ball mixture with a spatula. Add the sparkling water if you want the matzo balls fluffy, and mix well until well combine. Cover the mix and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Bring about 12 cups of salted water to a rolling boil in a large soup pot. Bring heat down to medium and keep at a steady simmer. With wet hands, make about 1 inch balls out of the matzo ball mix and gently drop them into the water. Cover and simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a large cooking pot. Add the onion, garlic and chiles and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until they have softened. Incorporate the sliced mushrooms. sprinkle the salt, stir and cover with a lid. Steam the mushrooms for about 6 to 8 minutes.

Take off the lid and pour the chicken broth over the mushroom base. Once it is simmering, incorporate the already cooked matzo balls, without their cooking liquid, and serve.

Comments

Dear Pati:
I have recently discovered you are on Public television in my home town of Chicago. I love, love, love, your show! For someone so young, your are an amazing cook and a wonderful teacher. Thank you for making these wonderful recipes available to us. Until recently, I did not realize the other various dried fruits and vegetables, herbs, and spices, one can use to spice up our own Mexican meals until I started to watch your show. Thank you for re-educating me and I promise to pass on your recipes to the next generation.
With best regards,
MDR

Hola Maribel,
Thank you so much for your lovely comment! It is my pleasure, and please send along any requests you may have ; )

Agree… I just made adobo sauce for the 1st time thanks to your teaching!… I live in Southern California next to several amazing markets! Best part of cooking is the amazing smell that perfumes my home! thank you again!

Oh we love the aromas around here too Erik!





Made this last night – it is really delicious. The leftovers will make this gloomy drizzly day more bearable. Thank you!


I made the mushroom jalapeno matzoh ball soup and it was a huge hit! Going to add it to my regular repertoire for the holidays from now on. Any special ideas for break fast on Yom Kippur? Thank you and looking forward to your program at the Mexican Cultural Institute later this month.

Hi Suzi, I am so glad you enjoyed the Mushroom Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup! I love making the Chicken with Tamarind, Apricots and Chipotle Sauce for break the fast. You can find the recipe here http://patismexicantable.com/2010/09/chicken-with-tamarind-apricots-and-chipotle-sauce.html. I am looking forward to seeing you at the Mexican Cultural Institute!



Hi Patti,
I really enjoyed watching you cook at The Chew, you are an amaizing cook and a great TV host! I have to mention that I saw you using a cheese mix on the pepitos with cheddar cheese, I always thought that we don’t use cheddar cheese on mexican cuisine, am I wrong? It still look delicious an I can wait to try the recipe.
Saludos :)

Hola Keren, Thank you! I love using Mexican Manchego and Oaxaca cheeses, but Mozzarella, Monterey Jack or a light Cheddar work as well because they melt nicely.



I am married to a guy that lived in Bratislava until 1946.We were married in D.F. in 1960. He also loves mexican cooking and hot dishes. My mother-in-law used to make matzo ball soup but mostly around Passover. Muchas gracias para las recetas.

Sarita, This is so lovely! Thank you so much for sharing!!



Hola Pati,

I am one of your PBS fans, but only heard of your recipe for mushroom and jalapeno chicken soup with matzo balls recently. I am going to make it this Passover. My family will love it. Just one question–what is the matzo ball mix that you refer to? Is this a pre-mixed blend, and if so, can you recommend a manufacturer? By the way, I will be teaching a class on unusual Passover recipes, and will be passing this recipe along to my synagogue friends.

Many thanks,

Dianne

Hi!
So glad to hear, Dianne! Yes, you can use any of the pre-mix blend, such as Mansichewitz or Streit’s. Hope you and your family enjoy it as much as we do…



do you have any other recipes for Passover?

Yes! I like this chicken in a tomatillo, chipotle and brown sugar sauce for Passover: http://www.patismexicantable.com/2011/04/chicken_in_a_tomatillo_chipotle_and_brown_sugar_sauce/



thank you Patti, happy passover



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