Note: Last year I wrote a detailed post about how I cook Kosher for Passover, or K for P as I call it. Click here if you care about such things.
Even before Passover began, I was thinking about how I hadn’t cooked anything elaborate in a while. A few months ago I started saving the stems from shitakes I had cooked with — I was keeping them in a plastic sandwich bag in my freezer. I had always heard that you could make a good stock with them, though I was a little skeptical about using them. So when it came time to make a soup for my gussied up matzah balls, I pulled the stems out and set to work.
To make the consomme saute the shitake stems (frozen) along with some fresh parsley and thyme in a stock pot with olive oil, salt and pepper. After it cooks for a bit add some roughly chopped carrots and onions (you’ll be straining it later, so don’t worry about making them pretty. If you want to add carrots/onions to finished soup I’ll explain what to do later.) Season again, and then cover with water and bring just to a boil. When it begins to boil turn down the heat and let it simmer for a while. Water is all you really need here, though if you really wanted to you could use broth. The shitake stems are so rich in umami that even you meat-eaters won’t miss anything.
For the matzah balls you can follow any standard recipe — I mixed matzah meal, a couple of eggs, some olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Then I added a twist — about 4 ounces of goat’s-milk ricotta. Stir it up just until it comes together, don’t over mix. It’s okay if it looks a little streaky. Then let it sit for a bit.
In another pot bring some lightly salted water to a boil. Here’s where you can add some nicely chopped veg if you want — I made some medallions of the bottoms of leeks and dropped them in. As your veg cooks, add the matzah balls, loosely formed, to the same pot. In the past I’ve always just cooked the matzah balls in the soup, but since we’re making a consomme we don’t want to get the soup cloudy.
Back to the soup as the matzah balls cook. Strain the mix to get all of the herbs, veg, stems, and whatever else out of the mix. Add the strained liquid back to the pot. Add some enokis if you want (I did), and when they’re heated through you’re done.
Ladle some soup into a bowl, then add a couple of matzah balls (they float when they’re ready) and some of the veg directly to the bowl. Garnish with some fresh parsley. I was surprised how good the soup came out; I’m going to continue to save shitake stems. The only problem with making elaborate dishes like this is that there are quite a few dishes to clean up afterwards.