A colleague came in this morning complaining of the tough, tasteless matzo brei she had this morning at the Seven Seas diner in Great Neck. (A great one for blaming the victim, I asked her what she expected from a Greek diner whose kitchen is doubtless staffed by Latin American cooks.)
I’ve rarely had great matzo brei in a restaurant. I’m betting that more than a few of you, refraining from eating out this week in observance of Passover, are making it at home. Here are some tips:
Stick to plain matzo
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 and, 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 and then squeeze it out with your hands.
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 that the egg begins to penetrate the matzo.
Frying the brei
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. No matter which type of brei you’re making—scrambled, pancake, combination—keep the heat high enough to give you crisp surfaces and creamy surfaces. Moderate heat will result in monotonous brei.
Serving it up
No matter how much salt you added before, add more before serving if it’s a savory brei. Plus plenty of pepper. For sweet brei, the sky’s the limit when serving: syrup, honey, cinnamon sugar, strawberry jam, orange marmalade.
Newsday photo / Tony Jerome