From Paul Wargaski
[Ed: Paul has been busy in the kitchen! Last weekend, in between making violins and playing bass with Tangleweed, he auditioned for Gordon Ramsay’s MasterChef. He doesn’t think that went so well, but his delicate, classy matzo ball soup was a hit with us. Says Paul, “The simple addition of the braised fennel gives this humble soup a tremendous boost in flavor and visual impact.”]
Ingredients1/2 cup matzo meal 2 eggs (slightly beaten) 2 tbsp. schmaltz ( that’s Yiddish for melted chicken fat) 32-64 ounces chicken stock 2 tablespoons fresh chopped fennel sprigs 1 fennel bulb quartered 4 fennel sprigs whole salt & pepper to taste
Mix together the eggs, chicken fat, 2 tablespoons stock, matzo meal, and chopped fennel until you achieve an even consistency. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.
Bring remaining stock to a rolling boil. It is important for the matzo balls to have room, however if you are doubling the recipe there is no need to double the stock.
Remove matzo ball mix from refrigerator and form into four balls, add to water, reduce heat and bring to a low simmer for 30-45 minutes.
Quarter fennel bulb and braise searing the flat sides of the bulb to a caramel brown, then sear other flat surface. Turn pieces, round side down, and add splash of water (1/8th inch water) to pan. Let water steam off, the fennel should still have a firmness or crunch to its texture.
Remove fennel and let cool on cutting board. Add remaining water to cooking matzo balls.
Arrange fennel seared-side down then make ¼ inch slices in fennel ¾ of the way down (doing this allows the aesthetics of the bulb to remain intact, while letting you separate the pieces later with a spoon).
To plate, place one matzo ball in the center of each bowl and one fennel bulb, seared-side up, on one side, then add broth and garnish with sprig of fennel.