Matzo Brei That Fits

Matzo Brie is a Passover dish that you shouldn’t pass over for anytime of the year. Literally, Matzo Brie means fried matzo.
I learned to make this excellent dish from the source. On Rivington Street, in lower Manhattan, from the ladies at Streit’s. Since 1925, so they should know from matzo, brei and otherwise. Not the ladies from 1925; the operation, Streit’s. But, come to think about it, I got my lesson from those old birds sometime around 1975, so maybe they were in fact originals from the beginning of the company itself.
If you ever want to see something that you will never see under any other circumstances, get a bunch of old Jewish women and ask them how to make a signature Jewish food. As with any group of culturally proud people, the ladies at Streit’s waged a subtle but obvious competition for who would be the one whose recipe would emerge as the one I would take away. Mind you, I had no entre there other than coming in to buy a box of matzos (or, is it “motzoi”?). Meantime, my then wife, the former Mrs. Wronski and my two little lovely daughters waited patiently outside in the trusty Land Rover 88. I think all they ever knew was that hubby/daddy was going into some store to buy some crackers. (The former Mrs. Wronski was from down South—DAR in fact—and I think of her every time I come within a five foot radius of a Saltine. That’s one salty cracker.) So now the full story will be known and, hopefully, passed on down to the grand kiddies.
I lived for a short time in South Miami Beach at the old Chesterfield Hotel. It’s still there, but not so old. In my time the hotel catered to Brazilian tourists, a crack whore and her pimped boyfriend, and Snow Birds from Canada. The latter were mostly Jewish folks, and the ladies (I don’t know if it’s a Jewish thing?), they also got into a competition over winning my heart with little bubulas (sweeties) of all sorts. But it was the dear Rose Edelman next door to my apartment in recalling whom as I write this brings heart shaped tears to my eyes. She invited me over to share her Passover Seder. No competition, just friends. She told me she had once lived in a Catholic convent in Brooklyn and made those hand crocheted borders surrounding holy pictures. I had her make me one for a small picture of my Guru. She also knitted me a meditation asana. I used it for some time then sent it back to her with the wish that it would be a comfort to her in her last days. God bless my dear Jewish Rose.
I also learned a fair amount of Yiddish apropos. Even a little bit of the Jewish soul may have rubbed off. Mostly, when someone says “how’r ya doin’?” the standard social grease is to say “fine.” But my Jewish soul cries out for something more human of an encounter, not just ships in the night. So now, when I hear “How are you doing?” you’ll hear me say “Ehh?” Or, if I’m in a particularly feisty mood, the truly soulful, “How should I be doing?” So call me pisher? I do try to be a mensch.
Matzo Brie, oh yes. I won’t go into the whole spiel. Ms. Martha Stewart has done the definitive coverage and it is appended to this recipe. (You call this a recipe, you are probably saying impatiently banging your spoon on the mixing bowl?)
Matzo Brei That Fits

I got that from the idea of kosher itself; i.e., fit to eat. Yes, a Jewish punster, I am.
Matzo Brei is made with matzo, water, whole chicken eggs (we are so foodish these days that you have to specify the kind of egg you be talkin’ ‘bout.), and a pinch of salt. That’s it.
Just be advised that there are as many variations on Matzo Brei as there are cooks, and the topic is as heated as a bowl of Chile at Terlingua. But definitely not so spicy. (Note to self, write the recipe for Polecat Chile I got from my Houston buddy John Geddie and served it at a block party in Park Slope, Brooklyn.)
So let me deconstruct Matzo Brei a bit. There’s the basic recipe that I’ve outlined above. From that you have to choose direction, sweet or savory. If sweet, then the key step would be—duh? (Winning!) some sweetener. A small dose of sugar for starters. If you want to go savory, then we add some ground pepper if you like (How many different kinds of pepper do you have in your pantry?) at least, and maybe some caramelized (formerly known as “browned”) thin sliced onion.
Those are the platforms for either the sweet or the savory kinds of Matzo Brei. I will defer to Ms. Stewart or that boychick Mr. Mark Bittman for the full elaboration of the many evolutions after that. (See appended videos below.)
But really keep it Jewish, keep it simple. We are all crossing the desert in a very real sense, but not maybe literally as in the Old Testament. Travel light.
Matzo Brei That (Finally!) Fits

Ingredients

Matzo… 2 whole square pieces per serving
Crush matzo into bowl by hand (Irregular size pieces are expected, to your liking. But not so small as a schtickle.)
Add ½ - 1 C hot water to moisten the matzo. Very important, not too mushy, not too dry. Think Goldilocks; just right. Practice makes perfect.
Eggs beaten… 1 jumbo egg per serving
Pinch of salt*

Preparation

Combine well
A shallow wide sided sauté pan


Frying

Use a pan sized appropriately for the serving size. The resulting “pancake” should be ½ to ¾ inch thick. (Single serving: 8”diameter pan, 2-4 servings: 10”, larger: 14”.)
Melt butter to active bubbling stage (About 6-7 mischigauss points on the butter bubblogaussometer, metric; ok, bubula? If you need a bubblogaussometer I sell them for $495 plus S&H in white, and off white, and off off white. $795 full tilt stainless. You won’t be disappointed.)

Pour the mixture into fry pan (It should go in as a loose heap that needs a little nudge to spread into a circular pancake/frittata kind of thing.)

Let it cook for a few minutes until the bottom is set and there’s a nice browning developed. Then, toyne** it over and finish the other side. Toyne it over: Here’s the trick. Be sure you have a hot pad and long sleeves in case there is some hot oil spill. Place a kitchen plate face down into the pan. Then invert so the half cooked Matzo Brei is now uncooked side down on the plate. Slide it back into the pan to finish the other side. It’s very easy, just do cover your arm when flipping half way through the cooking process.

Slide out the Matzo Brei onto a plate and serve immediately, if not sooner. Serve side B or side A; depends which looks better for serving. (Hey, let’s keep those kitchen secrets.***)

Enjoy! Eat! So you won’t be hungry.

Disclaimer: There seems to be also a divide about what your Matzo Brei should look like on the plate. We prefer the whole pancake treatment. Some do a scramble. The pancake is in our opinion the more elegant version. So, do as you will; but, boychick, you could make the effort.


*Just what the heck is a pinch of salt? I had a very prudish Aunty who would never conscience a “pinch” of anything, not even salt. Her husband was a seafaring man, an old salt, and he stayed out to sea for long periods of time. Always a smile to leave, very sober to return. No pinches at home, probably. But, for you sinners, a “pinch of” in kitchen parlance is what fits between your two fingers. About the same equivalent amount of sand that accumulates between your toes at the beach.

**There’s the story of Mr. Willigstein who at 85 wants to go to visit his long lost sweetheart in Miami. So he should have the peace of mind, he makes an appointment with Dr. Berger for a complete, state of the art check up. “Vell, Mr. Willigstein, we have completed all your tests and I am happy to tell you that you, you are a poyfect specimen. Go to your haneybunch in Miami. Mozel tov. No sooner does the ecstatic man leave when the nurse frantically barges into the doctor’s office, “Dr. Berger, Dr. Berger. That Mr. Willigstien who just had his check up. He, he, dropped dead right outside your office door. What should we do?” “Oy vey! It's 'Stein, Stein', not 'Stien!'” Then a little pause and some chin rubbing… The good doctor solemnly pronounces his prescription, “Vell, foyst we toyne him a-r-r-round, so he looks like he’s comin’ in!”

***A fine lady who I once knew, Geraldine by name, told the story of one Thanksgiving dinner when the maid, to much excited anticipation, brought the beautiful big turkey out of the kitchen into the dining room. As soon as she cleared the door she slipped and the golden fowl fell right on the floor. Flags were down for that foul. Without skipping a beat, Gerry said “It’s ok, just pick it up and take it back to the kitchen. And, then bring out the other bird.” (Kitchen secrets.)



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