Earlier this week, Caroline Russock of Serious Eats posted the recipe for matzoh brei from the Lucid Food cookbook. While the article shows a lovely photo of eggs and matzo, there’s no image of the finished dish, nor is there one in the book. It seemed like a good time to make and photograph it myself, as I had a box of stale matzo in the cupboard, and I happen to love eating this comforting meal for breakfast.
Matzoh brei means “fried matzo” in Yiddish. It’s a dish traditionally made during the Passover holiday, when leavened bread is forbidden. The recipe comes from the cuisine of Ashkenazi Jews, which makes sense to me because I learned it from my mother, whose heritage is German, Russian, and Polish. I can’t verify the spelling of “matzoh” here because I came across at least four different variations, including “matza brei” and matzo brei,” but what I can tell you is that I’m a devoted fan of this dish. Matzoh brei is lighter in texture than French toast, but with all the flavor, which means I can eat a stack of it without feeling overstuffed.
Although matzoh brei is wonderful on its own or with maple syrup, I like the addition of fresh fruit. We’ve had some warm weather, but it’s only March and the predominant fruit at the farmer’s market is still good old apples. Sauteed in a little butter and seasoned with cinnamon, they’re a sweet and tart counterpoint to the matzo. Because we have so many distinct and tasty varieties to choose from, I selected a tart Mutsu and a tangy Winesap apple for today’s version.
The recipe is simple, and hard to mess up: You soak dry matzo in water, squeeze it out, then soak it in egg batter. It doesn’t matter if the matzo breaks into small scraps, because once the pieces are frying in the pan, a little batter poured over the top makes them into a big matzo frittata. For a savory variation, skip the apples and take the maple syrup and vanilla out of the batter, and eat the cooked matzo with salt, pepper, and a dash of hot sauce. It’s like an all-in-one egg sandwich, minus the height.
Recipe: Matzoh Brei with Caramelized Apples
2 firm apples, peeled, cored,
3 tablespoons unsalted butter plus extra,
at room temperature
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons maple syrup, plus more
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
6 pieces lightly salted matzoh
Slice each apple quarter lengthwise into 4 pieces. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of the butter, followed by the apples. Cook the apples, flipping them occasionally, until they are tender and lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add the cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of the maple syrup and cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and transfer the apples to a covered dish to keep warm.
Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons maple syrup with the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and salt. Pour the batter into a pie dish. Put the matzoh in a large bowl and cover with warm water for 1 minute. Drain the matzoh and gently squeeze to release excess water. Break the matzoh into quarters. If they break unevenly or into small pieces, that’s fine. Soak the matzoh in the batter for 2 minutes.
Heat the sauté pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the butter. When the butter is hot, pull several pieces of matzoh out of the batter and put them in the pan. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Drop a teaspoon of batter onto the matzoh here and there as it cooks to make it fluffier, or to join smaller broken pieces together. Flip the matzoh with a spatula and cook the second side until golden brown, 1 1/2 minutes more. Drop more butter in the pan and repeat with the remaining matzoh.
Serve as soon as it comes out of the pan with the apple slices and extra maple syrup. It will disappear very fast!