Amateur epicurean: Matzo Man.

AuthorFoscolo, Ted

Secret ingredients make matzo ball soup a hero

For most recipes, you make changes over the years to get the taste, ease of preparation and such down to a science, so that one of your favorite dishes will deliver what is promised. The evolution of this recipe has such a story, just as most things I make in the kitchen.

My first attempt at making the matzo balls was so dismal, I was ridiculed by my son Theo the next morning. With the help of my wife, he formed a doll--complete with a little cape--out of the hard inedible balls. He was called Matzo Man. You can imagine the humiliation for a dad when he has failed his son in the kitchen. I was determined to make this right in Theo's eyes, so I went on a "Mission from God" to come up with the trick to create the best matzo balls, using them as kryptonite to kill Matzo Man.

We will credit Mrs. Katz, a family friend from Bay Shore, for the soup recipe. For the matzo balls, there is an evolution starting with Mrs. Friedman (a dear friend's mother), and moving on to another dear friend for the final stage. (He recommended a secret ingredient that makes the matzo balls so light and fluffy that you will need someone in the kitchen to capture them as they float into space like party balloons.) In my frustrating journey to destroy Matzo Man, I asked Mrs. Friedman for her secret (all the Jewish moms have a secret). It was a pinch of baking soda--it worked, so my work was done.

One day, boasting about my prowess in the area of matzo ball making while speaking with that other dear friend, he advised me to cancel the baking powder and replace the water in the recipe with vodka! "Vodka?" I asked, "Where did you come up with that?" I was then told about the possibility of a Russian fellow having a pop of his favorite spirit and throwing it into the mix--very much like the scene in The Godfather, when Clemenza dumps a...

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