The thrilling conclusion to matzoh ball throwdown!
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The thrilling conclusion to matzoh ball throwdown!

The mysterious ninja delivered Bobby Flay his dossier detailing his next challenge on Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” last week.

The chef: Jeff Nathan, owner and head chef of Abigael’s, the largest kosher restaurant in New York and, some say, the world.

The challenge: Chicken matzoh ball soup.

As a New Yorker, Flay is no stranger to the dish. Jewish Penicillin, he called it. When he’s feeling down, a good bowl of chicken soup picks him right up. Still, he needed a little bit of help in his technique. For that, he visited The Second Avenue Deli (now on Third Avenue) for a quick lesson. He learned to make the stock, make the batter for the matzoh balls, and roll them up. Meanwhile, Chef Nathan, thinking, he was part of a separate Food Network special, gives his own lesson to the cameras on how to make his special soup, which includes a spicy sofrito to kick it up a notch. Bam!

Flay crashed a filming session for the faux special and challenged Nathan to the throwdown. Not realizing Nathan was spicing up his soup, Flay added some kick to his with a little jalapeno. Special guests judges included cookbook author Joan Nathan (no relation to Jeff) who helped explain what’s Jewish about Jewish food to our readers last year.

For Nathan’s recipe for Sephardic Chicken Soup with Sofrito and Herbed Matzo Balls, click here.

On a side note, Flay’s soup instructor at Second Avenue Deli taught him to put a piece of flanken in the soup along with the chicken for a richer flavor. This is vindication for the Big Lipowsky clan. Last month I entered Mama Lipowsky’s chicken soup into Shabbat Across America’s Better Than Your Bubby’s soup contest but it was disqualified. Why? Because in addition to the whole chicken, she adds a pound of flanken. Coincidentally, Jeff Nathan was one of the judges of the contest and the one who prepared each of the finalists’ recipes. Those winning recipes, along with Mama Lipowsky’s, can be found here.

Oh, and in case you were wondering who won the throwdown, it was a tight call for the judges. One even said Flay’s tasted more traditional. But in the end, Nathan took it.

And now that you have a collection of chicken soup recipes, enough to keep your bellies full throughout the coming holiday, have a happy and healthy Pesach!

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