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April 22, 2008

Matzoh (Recipe: my dad's famous matzoh brei) {vegetarian}

An updated post from the archives, with new photos.

Matzoh1

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

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, in the photo). Serves 6.

Ingredients

6 sheets of plain store-bought matzoh, from the box
6 eggs
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 non-stick sauté pan over lowest 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.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Cheesy tarragon omeletta
Asparagus frittata

Comments

I love matzoh! My mom used to just keep it in the house and I would eat it plain or with jam. That picture is making me hungry...:)

This looks like a good one! I must confess that I only have matzoh during the holidays (chocolate covered, as well!), but always loved it. My mom would make a matzoh dish that you've reminded me of with this post that was essentially like a French toast but matzoh instead of bread...

My father was anti-religion (the Jewish variety, from the left) so we had a 10 minute Seder and never got rid of the bread in the house. Other kids I knew complained about fried matzoh for breakfast. We kept eating our Wheaties, Corn Pops, Rice Krispies, Cheerios, and Sugar Smacks. From the descriptions I know, it amazes me that now it's the subject of nostalgia.

Hi Lydia,
This sounds so delicious. I adore matzah brie, it's probably my favorite dish during Passover. You're going to think I'm crazy, but I love putting cold sour cream on warm matzah brie. I swear it's wonderful.

I've been "blogging for Passover" all week. Come stop by and see what I've been up to when you have a moment.

All the best,
Karen

I love matzoh brie! Yours looks a bit like French Toast... lovely! We used to eat it prepared like scrambled eggs with some chives. Seconding the sour cream topping comment!

Whenever I read about matzoh brei it always makes me think of migas as they're done in Texas -- eggs scrambled with strips of corn tortilla. Seems like a similiar idea.

Although I've always read about matzoh brei I've never had it. I'll have to experiment with the matzoh I have left over from the chocolate buttercrunch matzoh.

This is a testimonial. I have eaten Lydia's matzoh brei and it is quite lip smackin' good.

I echo Julie's comment--having never eaten matzoh brei, this reminds me of a tex-mex breakfast that I have tried which was served with eggs and tortillas. Delicious.

I have to say, I laughed out loud at your comment about your Dad's "Spit in the Ocean." When you wrote, "If that dish had a name, I've repressed it," I literally choked on my coffee from trying to hold back a giggle.

For some reason, the very thought of that comment tickles me to no end. Perhaps it's because I've "been there" and "done that," or at least experienced something very similar. In my case, the repressed memory is of creamed peas on toast, or some other nefarious concoction. Gah!

I must say Matzo Brei is also my favorite Passover dish! My husband makes it for us (maybe it's a guy thing?)... I try to keep matzah on hand throughout the year to make sure I can request it beyond Passover. Yours looks great!

I love matzo brei! I've never had it cut into wedges before, how fun. We generally only eat matzo at Passover but I do use matzo meal year 'round!

Oh wow - you weren't kidding! Yours is like a matza brei cake! Nice job. Passover doesn't seem all that bad anymore.

That is hands-down the best looking matzah brei I've ever seen. My family's style was a jumbled mess with schmaltz-fried onions - yum.

That's is some fine looking matzoh brei. I had my version of matzoh brei for breakfast today. I like mine sweet, so I add in some brown sugar and cinnamon.

As Lydia noted, for me, Matzoh is best enjoyed year 'round when it isn't required. But good Matzoh brei is delicious anytime. I might just have to whip some up for dinner!

What an enticing image. I remember your post about this before...but I didn't quite imagine this. I do also think the weird concoction with the scrambled eggs/fried bologna actually sounds good.

Chris, I'm such a purist -- just salt on top for me!

Mike, it's been lots of fun to branch out and use matzoh in different ways, after growing up with it being a "holiday only" food.

Mae, we never cleaned the house out, either. The hardest thing was seeing the cereal boxes every morning, but not being allowed to eat it. We never had a 10-minute seder, but some of us kids would engage in speed-reading contests....

Karen, sour cream?! Oh, my! But then you should have seen my face the first time my husband put maple syrup on matzoh brei.

Ann, okay, maybe I'll have to try the sour cream thing. Our matzoh brei looks like a combination of a Spanish tortilla and a kugel.

Julie, are we talking about chocolate matzoh brei now?!

Marcia, thank you -- I'd be happy to make it for you again this year.

Sandie, my dad seemed to have colorful names for most everything he cooked. I think lots of those names came from his time in the army. I honestly can't remember the name of the floating salami thing, but my father always made it in an electric frying pan, and it looked like a giant polka-dotted scrambled egg!

Patsy, maybe it is a guy thing -- or maybe weekend breakfast is a guy thing. I don't know, but I've taken over the matzoh brei making in our house.

Rachel, I hope you'll try this way of making matzoh brei -- it's delicious.

Hillary, this is my favorite of all of the Passover foods -- the only one I'm willing to eat at other times of the year.

Lifeinrecipes, thank you -- and welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Matzoh brei with onions -- never had it that way, but it reminds me of eggs, lox and onions, which was always a brunch favorite in our house.

Stef, I've never tried the sweet version, but a little bit of cinnamon would be nice.

CousinMartin, you know how good this matzoh brei is!

Callipygia, I always loved when my father cooked (which was not that often), and I would eat anything he made, including the polka-dot bologna dish. The matzoh brei was so much better than that.

In memories and now, it was always a favorite, but we just called it fried matzo. And the egg and salami thing -- that's called "salami and eggs." My mother had the honor of teaching all the Catholic neighbors a new dish for Lent -- fried matzo! Squeezing and covering the pan are new to me. Have to make it again. Hope it looks as good as yours. And sour cream: sounds good, a segue to blintzes, another favorite (and never sweet).

Oy vey, I have to make this! How wonderful is that! Thanks for sharing.

this sounds great! I have never made it in this shape before, I usually treat the mixture like scrambled eggs once it's in the pan. I will try this next time I make it for breakfast!

wow I've never heard of matzo before but it sure looks very good & drool-a-licious! =D~

I came across Passover in many blogs and I'm learning another new thing here - matzoh!
Thanks.

so gloriously golden, i havent tried this but i am sure i'll love it! yum!

The photo is so mouthwatering although I have no idea how it tastes. The only thing that my fathe rknows how to cook is boiled eggs, but they are the perfect boiled eggs and he is proud of them every time ;)

Yet another thing I need to try:D

Susan, so I'm not the only one who had eggs with the floating salami on Sundays for breakfast?! My father would make a huge pan of matzoh brei, using the entire box of matzoh, and he'd flip it in one piece. That impressed me then, and now -- I can only flip the small ones.

Noble Pig, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Oy vey is right -- this matzoh brei is sooooo good!

Elisha Lynn, welcome! Believe it or not, I've never made it the scrambled-egg way. I'll try that if you'll try mine.

Noobcook, matzoh is kind of like tofu -- not much taste on its own, but loves to be paired with other things.

Tigerfish, I always learn new things when I visit your blog, too.

Rita, I'm absolutely sure you will love it -- everyone who has ever tasted this at my house has left with a smile.

Warda, it tastes like French toast. (my father was a pretty good egg boiler, too...)

Bellini Valli, please do try it!

I've always had a special love of matzoh. My family is not Jewish, but everyone thought I was growing up because my favorite lunch was matzoh! I became acquainted with matzoh brei later on in life, and it was love at first bite. This looks like a legendary rendition!

This looks delicious. I'm so interested in all these new Jewish recipes I've been finding all over the food blog world recently. So great. Happy belated passover!

Cakespy, you're lucky to have had matzoh in your life even though you didn't have to eat it. Even though I've been eating it all my life, I didn't really learn to appreciate the possibilities until fairly recently. But no matter how many ways I try to use it, my favorite will always be this matzoh brei.

We Are Never Full, I guess if I were going to encourage you to make one matzoh dish, it would be this one! Hope you will try it.

Yet another thing you have made that I have never heard of. Thanks for always expanding my culinary world.

Matzah Brei is such a "dad" thing! Passover was my father's time to shine at breakfast, too. His is more the scrambled kind--crunchy around the edges and soft in the middle *drool* I'm happy to report that I just tried your dad's style Matzah Brei for dinner tonight (in my kitchen) and I'm hooked! Hurrah for variety--thanks for the inspiring post.

Peabody, thank you so much. I'm in awe of your baking and your photography; everything you write about makes my mouth water!

Rebecca, matzoh brei was always my dad's thing -- until I had my own kitchen, frying pan, and the courage to try to make it as well as he did. I like the sound of crunchy around the edges, though -- I'll have to try it your way, too.

Oh yum. I love matzoh and will certainly have to try this recipe out.

Mmmm... I've never had matzoh brei before, but that photo is making me think I should start.

Kitchen Goddess, I think this recipe is such a winner. Hope you try it.

Susan, yes, of course! Someone who likes frittatas will definitely love matzoh brei.

For a lighter version, try separating the yolks from the whites. Add the yolks to the drained Matzo. Lots of black pepper added before cooking gives a nice flavor.Beat the whites till light and fold into mixture.Cook in butter. Maple syrup on top, mmmmmm. No salt needed.

Matzo brei is synonomous with Passover. My grandchildren who hold dual citizenship in the USA and Israel love their Mother's Yemenite equivalent of matzo brei called Fatut. This consists of clarified smoked butter, honey, sugar, salt, milk and water in a pan on top of the stove heated up and then broken pieces of matzo are added and it is all cooked till soft - a cereal-like consistency. I've never had it but the four kids were salivating during dinner last night thinking of breakfast this morning, My husband and I like matzo brei with carmelized onions and roasted red pepper - makes a nice supper with a side salad. A sweet Pesach and Happy Easter to all.

Lori, great idea, though you are messing with tradition by trying to make this dish healthier!

Louise, I've heard of Fatut but never tasted it. I love your idea of adding caramelized onions and pepper -- but again, you are messing with tradition. My dad would have been horrified -- he was absolutely convinced that his matzoh brei was definitive, and it's the one I've been making for 50 years.

HASN'T ANYBODY TRIED MAKING IT WITH SALT AND ONION POWDER? (LOTS OF THE ONION POWDER, NOT ONION SALT THOUGH). IT'S THE ONLY WAY TO GO. USING FRESH ONIONS IS GOOD TOO BUT THE ONION POWDER REALLY GIVES OFF THE FLAVOR.

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