Marcus has covered food for Newsday since 1998.
How do you like your matzo brei?
When it comes to matzo brei (matzo fried with egg), the split in world Jewry is not between Ashkenazic and Sephardic, but between those who like it scrambled and those who like it pancake-style. I appreciate both styles, but give the edge to the pancake. Here's how I make it:
The pleasant, eggy taste of egg matzo gets lost in a brei, and whole wheat lends a coarse, sodden note. Among plain matzos, however, I have found no discernible differences among brands.
Breaking and soaking
My preferred method of preparing the matzo is to break it, dry, into halves or quarters so it fits in the bowl, then soak it in cold water until it's just pliable. Finally, break it into smaller pieces and allow these to soak until they've reached the desired softness. Hot water will soften the matzo quicker, but then you run the risk of making it too soft. I don't like it to soak into an undifferentiated mush.
Get the water out
It's essential to get as much water as possible out of the soaked matzo because only then will it soak up the maximum amount of egg. Place the drained matzo in a colander, then squeeze it out by hand.
I like my matzo brei the way I like my French toast: eggy and custardy. To achieve this, I use a high egg-matzo ratio of one-to-one. I use no milk, but I do whisk a fair amount of salt into the eggs before adding them to the matzo. Otherwise, no amount of exterior salt will counteract the matzo's blandness. After I add the matzo to the eggs, I let the mixture rest for a few minutes so the egg begins to penetrate the matzo.
Get a nonstick pan good and hot, add as much butter as you can stand, and, when the foaming subsides, add the egg-matzo mixture. For pancake-style, cook until the brei is browned on one side, then gently flip. For scrambled . . . scramble it. No matter which type of brei you're making, keep the heat high enough to give you crisp surfaces and creamy insides. Moderate heat will result in monotonous brei.
If you're going savory, sprinkle on a little coarse salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Lately, I've been anointing my matzo brei with good olive oil to excellent effect. For sweet brei, the sky's the limit when serving: syrup, honey, cinnamon sugar, strawberry jam, orange marmalade.
What's the best way to boil an egg?
I'm not going to say that this way is the best, but I think it may be the most foolproof.
The January issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine featured a recipe for "foolproof soft-boiled eggs" that has you bring a half-inch of water to boil in a saucepan, place the eggs in the pan, then cover and steam them for 61/2 minutes. That works like a charm, but I go years -- even decades -- without the need for a soft-boiled egg.
Would the same method work for hard-boiled eggs? Yes, indeed. After 9 minutes, the whites were firm, the yolks still a little moist. If you like yolks completely dry, increase the time to 10 or 11 minutes.
To quickly cool eggs, take them out of the pan (which will remain hot) and immerse them in a bowl of cold water and ice.