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.
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.
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.
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...
MUSHROOM AND JALAPEÑO SOUPServes 6-8 (makes 10 to 12 medium to large sized matzo balls)INGREDIENTS1 cup matzo ball mix2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste4 large eggs1/3 cup vegetable oil1 tablespoon sparkling water, optional, to make the matzo balls fluffy2 tablespoons vegetable oil1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped1 garlic clove, finely chopped2 jalapeño chiles, finely chopped, seeded optional, more or less to taste1/2 pound white mushrooms, wiped clean with cloth, sliced3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste8-10 cups chicken brothTO PREPAREIn 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.