Please welcome Hank Shaw as he shares a Passover treat with us. Hank made the savory version of matzo brei for my parents and me the other day, we loved it! ~Elise
I grew up in a New Jersey town with lots of Jewish people, so I received an early education in things like the Seder, or Purim or Hannukah. I remember this dish as a quick meal my friends' mothers would make when I came over during Passover. I remember it as "maht-zuh-brai," with the "brai" rhyming with "try." I only later learned that it's spelled matzo brei.
What is Matzo Brei?
Matzo brei is a Jewish version of a universal breakfast: A bready thing with eggs. It's sorta like huevos rancheros, or leftover dumplings and eggs. It is ridiculously simple, with as many incarnations as there are cooks.
How to Make Matzo Brei
Some like their matzo, which is an unleavened flatbread, heavily soaked in water or milk. Some don't soak their matzo at all. A typical ratio of matzo to egg is 1:1, which is what we use here, but I've seen two matzo sheets to one egg, as well as the reverse.
Then there is the question: Savory or sweet?
What Kind of Matzo Works Best for Matzo Brei?
Traditional matzo is what we use here, but you could also use whole wheat or even gluten-free matzo. Do not use egg matzo, as it is too soft. Some places sell a thicker type of handmade matzo, often made from a special flour called shmura. It's fine to use, but you will need to soak it longer.
Sweet vs Savory Matzo Brei
Savory matzo brei is really best cooked in schmaltz, rendered chicken fat. No other cooking fat comes close to being as good, except maybe duck fat. But vegetable oil is commonly used, as is butter — so long as the butter is kosher if you are keeping kosher.
Butter is the best fat for sweet matzo brei, which is most often served with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, apple sauce, jam or preserves. We added a bit of orange flower water to the recipe for a bit of extra oomph, but you could skip it if you want.
Ever eaten matzo brei? If so, how is yours different from ours?
We won't get into the details of kashrut, Jewish dietary laws, here. But one of the most important elements of keeping a kosher kitchen is to only allow kosher ingredients into your home. For this recipe, be sure to get kosher certified eggs, milk and butter (if using).
It's best to get advice from a halachic authority for specific guidelines for your personal kitchen.
What else can I make with matzo?
- Savory Matzo Brei
- 4 tablespoon chicken fat or vegetable oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- Pinch of sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 4 sheets of matzo
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Chives or parsley, chopped for garnish
- Sweet Matzo Brei
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk, divided
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon orange-flower water (optional)
- 4 sheets matzo
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar, for garnish (optional)
- Or apple sauce, jam or preserve, on the side (optional)
Savory Matzo Brei
Caramelize the onions:
For the savory matzo brei, you will need to caramelize the onions first. Heat 2 tablespoons of the chicken fat or oil in a sauté pan and gently cook the onions until soft and caramelized. Let them cook at medium heat for a few minutes, then sprinkle a little salt and a little sugar over them. Cover the pan and turn the heat to low. Stir occasionally. This should take 15-20 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel.
Soften the matzo:
Soften the matzo a little by running them under cold water for 15 to 60 seconds. The longer you wet them down, the softer they will be; it's your choice.
Break up matzo and stir with beaten eggs and caramelized onions:
Beat the eggs with a little salt and black pepper in a large bowl. Break the matzo up into pieces of about 1/2 to 1 inch into the bowl with the eggs. Stir in the caramelized onions and mix well.
Cook in chicken fat:
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of chicken fat in the sauté pan over medium-high heat. Let this heat up for a minute or two, then pour in the matzo-egg mixture. Cook this, moving it around constantly, until the eggs are just barely set — you want them to be soft, and and not browned. This should take about 90 seconds or so. Serve immediately, garnished with chopped parsley or chives.
Sweet Matzo Brei
Beat the eggs, 2 tablespoons milk, salt, sugar and orange flower water:
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, 2 tablespoons milk, salt, sugar and orange-flower water (if using).
Crush matzo and soak in milk:
In another bowl, break the matzo into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces. Add the cup of milk and mix well. Let this stand at least 30 seconds to about 2 minutes. The longer the matzo sits in the milk, the softer it will become.
Mix soaked matzo with eggs:
When you're ready, move the soaked matzo from the milk bowl into the bowl with the eggs. Mix well to combine.
Cook in butter:
Heat the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Let it heat up for a minute or two until the butter is melted before adding the matzo-egg mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the eggs are just barely set, about 90 seconds.
Serve garnished with cinnamon or powdered sugar, apple sauce on the side or something else sweet, like your favorite jam or preserves.