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April 3, 2007

Matzoh (Recipe: matzoh brei) {vegetarian}

Matzoh

My father, like all dads of the 1950s, mastered a couple of pieces of cooking equipment and had his special dishes that he produced on holidays, and on demand.

With the aid of a charcoal kettle grill in the back yard, he made the world's best lamb chops. In the electric frying pan, on Sunday mornings, he would make Spit in the Ocean, or another weird concoction that involved slices of bologna or salami floating in a sea of scrambled eggs. If that dish had a name, I've repressed it.

Every year in the Spring, my father did his best work, with a straight-sided covered sauté pan, a large melamine mixing bowl ... and his hands. Spring meant Passover, which meant matzoh, which meant matzoh brei. We ate this only once a year. And my dad was the matzoh brei king.

Matzoh (also spelled matzah, or matzo) is unleavened bread, made from wheat flour and water. By tradition and by definition, it's not allowed to ferment; in fact, from the time the water is added to the flour, it must be completely cooked in no more than 18 minutes. The result is a cracker-like consistency and, as you can imagine from something with only two ingredients, virtually no taste. Oh, there are flavored matzohs, enhanced with egg or onion or sesame — there's even chocolate-covered matzoh — but to us those were not "real" matzoh, and we never ate them at home.

Store-bought was our everyday, but for special occasions like Passover, my parents would seek out the more elusive shmura matzoh, which is a kind of artisan product: hand-made, and wood-fired.

Available year-round in my local supermarket, matzoh makes a fine alternative in lasagna, meatloaf, pudding, or chocolate crunch. I can grind the matzoh to make a coating for lamb chops, though they will never taste as good as my dad's, but after years of practice, my matzoh brei is every bit as delicious as his.

By the way, this post goes out to my Cousin Martin, who reminded me that matzoh is an all-the-time pantry item, not just a seasonal substitute for bread in a tuna-with-Miracle Whip sandwich. 

Matzoh brei

Pronounced MAT-ZAH BRY, this egg dish resembles a frittata or tortilla Española: eggs, something starchy to give body, and salt. My father used to say that his secret was "in the wrist." Now that I make this for my family, I know he was right. I like this just as it comes from the pan, often with sea salt on top, but Ted gives it the pancake treatment (maple syrup). Serves 6.

Ingredients

6 sheets of plain store-bought matzoh, from the box
6 eggs
Lots of kosher salt
2 Tbsp butter

Directions

Place the matzoh in a large bowl, break it up into chunks, and fill the bowl with lukewarm water. Let the matzoh soak for 2-3 minutes, until it's soft but not disintegrating. Now for some wrist action: grab clumps of the soft matzoh, and squeeze out as much water as humanly possible. Place into another bowl. Repeat until all the matzoh is drained, and you have a bowl full of matzoh clumps. In another bowl, or in a large measuring cup, whisk the eggs with 2 tablespoons of water until thoroughly mixed. Pour into the bowl with the matzoh. Add some salt (start with a heaping teaspoon). Stir everything together.

In a straight-sided sauté pan over low heat, melt the butter, making sure to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour in the matzoh mixture, and level with a spatula. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes or so, checking every now and then to make sure the mixture is not sticking. When the bottom is brown, either (very bravely) flip the entire matzoh brei over in one piece, or do what I do and cut it into quarters. Flip each quarter back into the pan, and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until the bottom is lightly browned and the eggs are set. Cut into wedges, sprinkle with salt (believe me, it will be needed!) and serve.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Comments

mmmm matzoh brie. matzoh brie, matzoh and cream cheese sandwiches, and macaroons are the best things about passover!

I love matzoh, even the egg and onion ones; they taste "unreal." Is there a better soup dumpling than a matzoh ball? Impossible.

Thank you so much for this post. I have to admit, my total experience of cooking with matzoh is using it to make Matzoh ball soup, which I love. But, obviously, I'm short changing this marvelous ingredient

Have you ever added fried onions to your matzoh brei? It makes a very tasty savory dish.

Stacy, when I was little I used to love those chocolate coconut macaroons in the orange can -- Manischewitz, I think? Who could forget them?!

Susan, matzoh balls are the best.....

Sher, for years I thought of matzoh as just a holiday thing. It's only recently that I've been learning how to use it year-round.

Amy, I've had matzoh brei with onions in restaurants, but honestly I've never had the courage to mess with my dad's recipe at home! It does sound wonderful, though.

Spit in the Ocean... that is a great name! (we called it "birds in a nest"). Your dad sounds like quite the character and I am intrigued by this dish- I've heard about it but the image of wet grey wrung out mounds of matzoh...

Lydia, thanks for such a informative post. I used matzo occasionally when the recipes call for it, but not a lot. Love to read about your memory with your dad, too.

You know, I've been reading Ruth Reichl's "Tender at the Bone" and just this week reached the point where she makes matzoh brei for her teenaged friends. Sounds like destiny for me!

"Spit in the Ocean" is a new name to me -- we called those "Pop-eyes" in our house growing up. But your family's name for them is so much more colorful.

Callipygia, my dad had his moments...! Now, would it help to think of matzoh brei as the fluffiest scrambled eggs you've ever had? Please try this -- you'll be amazed at the alchemy between these simple ingredients.

Anh, I don't use matzoh a lot, but when I do, I always think of my dad making breakfast.

TW, the universe is definitely telling you to make matzoh brei!

Mizburd, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. My father was in the Army during WWII, and I wonder if that's where he picked up the name (though you'd think that would have been a Navy thing)? Anyway, Spit in the Ocean has stuck in our house.

I have never eaten matzoh, but I eat a ton of eggs and am always looking for new ways to fix them. Since I assume matzoh is whole-wheat, I will definitely try matzoh brei. The matzoh lasagna sounds pretty good too.

In addition to matzoh brie we also like to make matzah lasagna. It's amazing what you can do with one ingredient when you're all but forced to work with it. What do you think, sould there be an Iron Chef episode with matzoh as the secret ingredient? haha! That would be interesting.

I've never eaten Matzo crackers, will have to look out for them, and give them a whirl!

I ate my first matzoh brei this weekend, Lydia. Made me think of migas with matzoh instead of chips.

I've just discovered a source of Matzoh crackers in the UK so I'm quite excited about using them in cooking!

I had no idea that matzoh was so versatile. I'm eager to try it now--thanks!

Also, re: your olive oil post, I can't tell you how many times I went to Joe Pace's in the North End with my parents. How I miss going there.

my dad made bread, cinnamon rolls and waffles!

Zoe, matzoh brei is a revelation -- eggy but substantial. The matzoh really transforms from a cracker to something almost noodle-like. I think you'll like it.

Ari, write immediately to Alton Brown and suggest this! Can you imagine the chefs, expecting Kobe beef or foie gras, and finding matzoh instead???! I love this idea!

Kim, I'm laughing out loud! Thank you so much!

Kelly-Jane, matzoh, like tofu, always needs to beeaten with something with good flavor -- because it has none of its own. So have fun with it.

Christine, I hope this is the first of many matzoh brei encounters....

Freya, yippee, and happy matzoh brei-ing!

Susan, it was so sad when the Big Dig started and Joe Pace moved to the West End. The store lost its spirit there, and after my first visit I never went back. I miss it, too.

Janelle, in my next life I want a dad who makes cinnamon rolls. Really. You are so lucky!

What wonderful memories.
I'm afraid all my dad ever mastered was the humble bacon and eggs, and he didn't like his bacon crisp so even that wasn't a hit.
I'll have to take another look at matzoh - I've contemplated but never used it.
Oh wait - Dad was really great with Ice Cream Sundaes!

Link, I really don't know a fresh matzoh source in RI, but now I'm curious and I'll go a'lookin...

Katie, any dad who could make ice cream sundaes can be forgiven any quirks!!!

Oh no! Now you've got me wanting to make matzoh in addition to all the other breads of this spring season, Jewish and Christian!

Alanna, we're a multi-holiday household; tomorrow I'm making matzoh brei, and Ted is making brioche! Hope you'll enjoy this recipe.

I just made the nits Matzo-brei the other morning! They ate half of it...which can only be considered a rousing success. A nice Jewish boy from Long Island showed me how to make this many years ago. Mine are more scrambled eggy (eaten with jam!), but I'm gonna try your style...maybe tomorrow.
And I note you're as big a Trader Joe's fan as I am...

Bad Home Cook, we made our first batch of the year yesterday morning. Oh my, it was delicious! Hope you like this version.

Lydia,

Great post about matzo and all we can make with it. I love matzo brei and have found memories of my mom making it during my childhood. I also love the sweet/salty debate. In my house, we ate it with salt; in my husband's, they ate it with strawberry jam. Also, I made a matzo lasagna last night. You'll get a kick out of the story that went along with it:http://aroundthetable.typepad.com/aroundthetable/2007/04/merging_of_trad.html

Ronnie, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Loved your story -- isn't it fun to live in a household with more than one holiday to celebrate at this time of year? Thanks for visiting.

Does anyone have a recipe for making matzo crackers? I tried to make my own using a pita bread recipe without the yeast, and they were good but were more like Lavash crackers without the bubbles and crispiness that store bought Matzo crackers have.

Sherry, here's a recipe I found (but haven't tried):
http://pratie.blogspot.com/2005/04/our-home-made-matzoh.html

Hope you'll give it a try and inspire the rest of us!

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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