The seder is the culinary highlight of Passover (if not the Jewish year), but following close behind is matzo brei.
When it comes to matzo brei (matzo fried with eggs), 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:
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 run it, whole, under cold running water until it is pliable enough to break it into quarters without generating a lot of crumbs and shards. Put the quarters in a bowl, cover with cold water and break it into smaller pieces. Soak until matzo reaches 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. Obsessives can place drained matzo into a clean dish towel and wring dry.
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.
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. 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.