Matzah gets a bad rap. I mean, it deserves it — it’s the Fredo of foods. Nobody likes Fredo — because he’s the worst.
To be clear, I’m not talking about matzah meal — the defining feature of the best cold remedy on the planet, and otherwise just a variant of bread crumbs. I’m talking about the stuff you pull out of the Manischewitz box and try to eat like toast. (Or pizza, or whatever other sad imitation you’ve made that, five days in, you’ve convinced yourself tastes, you know, actually? It’s really not that bad.) That stuff is dry, bland, clogs your bowels, and is almost useless as a food in its own right. Jews suffer through it for one spring week each year because tradition dictates that we not eat the thing infinitely better: bread. Mmm, bread. Bread is the best. It’s the offer you can’t refuse of food — it’s everything matzah isn’t. I guarantee that nobody has ever said, “This sandwich is great, but you know what would make it better? Some of this colorless, flavorless, yeastless cracker.”
But I’m here to redeem matzah! There is one, and only one, way matzah transcends its meager life as a sad-sack bread substitute and becomes not just good, but one of the very best dishes breakfast home cooking has to offer.
Matzah Brei. (rhymes with fry)
Let me introduce you to this wonder. Think French toast and you’re most of the way there, but it is honestly better than French toast. I guarantee that somebody has said, “This French toast is great, but know what would make it better? Some of this colorless, flavorless, yeastless cracker.” Because I’ve said it.
It’s matzah broken into pieces, soaked briefly in liquid, coated with egg, and fried on the stove until it’s golden brown. I’ve seen recipes that tell you to form the matzah into pancake-like patties, or make like a crepe and go sweet OR savory with your toppings. The NY Times’ recipe is the same as mine yet somehow completely different. I prefer to keep the pieces separate for more of a scramble feel and just the simple, elegant topping of a hurricane of pure maple syrup.
It’s really that simple. Take ten minutes out of your morning for, admittedly, an al dente syrup delivery vehicle. Instead of dry, bland matzah, making you want to cry if only to have the tears drip down and add some salt and moisture to your lunch, the matzah is chewy, eggy, and… OK, you’re really eating syrup with some chew to it. But — How. Is. That. Bad?
Evidence suggests that people have generally been frying matzah since at least 1846 — but probably longer than that, because it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that anything will taste better fried in butter or schmaltz. The eggy version seems to have been invented by American Jews as early as 1889, which — of course. When it comes to frying food, you come at the king, you best not miss. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸
I have fond memories of my grandma visiting during Passover, waiting patiently until 10:00 am to wake her up,* and getting that fresh batch of “fried matzah” to give me the sugar rush I needed to attack the day. When my grandma wasn’t around, my mom would make it. Every year, every day before school, I needed that fried matzah to make Passover bearable. I don’t keep Passover anymore, but every year I still go to the grocery store a few days before, awkwardly ask the night manager where the matzah is,** and bring it home ready for the tradition to continue. Honestly, I would eat it throughout the year — it’s that good. I don’t though. Maybe it’s just better as a special thing.
(*Because Grandma Aileen didn’t have many rules, but you did NOT wake her up before ten. Ever.)
(**He always has to think about it, but he ALWAYS knows! Think about how much food a modern American grocery store stocks. To know where everything is, even items nobody asks about at midnight (Matzah! The ultimate munchies food!), is objectively impressive.)
Grandma Aileen’s Fried Matzah (Matzah Brei)
3 sheets of maztah
1 tbsp butter
Pure maple syrup
Pure maple syrup (not a typo)
1. Break the matzah into roughly 1-inch square pieces and place in a bowl
2. Cover the matzah in room temperature water and let sit for 20-30 seconds until just softened. Drain thoroughly.
3. While the matzah soaks, crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk until combined
4. Pour the eggs over the drained matzah. Gently stir to combine.
5. Melt the butter in a pan on medium-high heat.
6. Dump the matzah into the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the eggs have cooked and the matzah starts to turn golden brown. Transfer to a plate.
7. Pour maple syrup onto the matzah until satisfied.
8. Pour a little more just to be safe.
9. Eat and enjoy.