By Meg A. Parsont
Matzo brei (rhymes with try!) is a popular Passover dish of Ashkenazi Jewish origin made from matzo pieces fried with eggs. For those who are observing Passover, it’s a satisfying alternative to the pancakes, French toast, and other breakfast and brunch goodies that are off-limits during the holiday. As a matter of fact, it’s such a popular dish, Barney Greengrass on Amsterdam Avenue serves it year-round.
While it’s a relatively simple dish made with two main ingredients—egg and matzo—there’s an age-old debate surrounding matzo brei. There are two opposing camps: those who prefer it sweet and those who are savory purists. I checked in with Gary Greengrass, the third-generation owner of Barney Greengrass, for his insights into this highly controversial issue.
According to Gary, they have been serving the same traditional recipe for years. “We’re a little bit savory,” he told me. “No onions, though,” he added firmly. “We stick to our roots.” When I asked him for any tips on cooking matzoh brei, he said, “Without giving away our recipe, some people soak it in a little bit of water, some soak it in a little bit of milk.” Interesting food for thought.
The West Side Rag doesn’t dare take sides in the sweet vs savory debate! In the spirit of sharing holiday traditions and recipes, we’re happy to present a recipe for each style of matzo brei.
Sweet Pancake-Style Matzo Brei
Recipe by Meg A. Parsont
This recipe will satisfy those with a sweet tooth, but because it’s made primarily with egg whites, low-fat milk, and the option to use whole wheat matzo, it can be rationalized as a slightly healthy option!
4 regular or whole wheat matzos
6 large eggs: 4 egg whites, 2 whole eggs
Splash of milk (I use 1%)
1 generous capful of vanilla extract
A healthy sprinkle of cinnamon
Salt to taste
To serve: fresh berries, jam, sour cream, or maple syrup
Makes 2 large pancakes. When served whole, feeds 2 hungry people; can also be be cut into sections to serve more.
- Break matzos into quarters and soak in hot water in a large bowl for 3-4 minutes until soggy.
- Meanwhile, combine eggs, egg whites, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
- Squeeze out the water from the pre-soaked matzos and break into small pieces (approximately 1 inch).
- Place matzo pieces in bowl with eggs, egg whites, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt, and mix thoroughly.
- Divide mixture into 2 8” non-stick skillets coated with cooking spray and a bit of butter if desired. (Be sure to retain a bit of the egg mixture for the final step.) Note: If the plan is to serve to more than 2 people, use just one large skillet.
- Cook like pancakes and when golden brown on first side, flip and add in the leftover egg mixture.
- Serve with topping(s) of your choice.
Mama’s Savory Matzo Brei with Onion and Black Pepper
Recipe by Lenore Michaels
This recipe was originated by my friend Lenore’s maternal grandmother, Ray Wagner, who Lenore called “Mama.” According to Lenore, Ray wasn’t the best cook but she had a few superlative specialties: blintzes, fried salami and eggs, and matzo brei.
1 matzo per person
1 egg per matzo
½ medium-sized onion per matzo, roughly chopped or grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter or olive oil
To serve: ketchup, siracha, or chili paste optional
- Crumble dry matzo into bite-sized pieces. Put in large bowl, cover with water, and push the matzo down to make sure it gets wet.
- Using hands to hold down matzo, drain the water, leaving the matzo damp but not soaking wet.
- Beat eggs in a separate bowl. Add eggs, chopped/grated onion, salt, and pepper to the bowl of matzo. Mix well.
- Heat butter or oil in a large non-stick skillet (the bigger the better—do not overcrowd). Add matzo mixture and let cook, stirring/flipping with spatula every 3 minutes or so until the eggs are cooked and the matzo edges start to crisp. This will take longer than you think! Add a bit more salt and a lot of ground black pepper to taste.
- Dish onto plates and eat while it’s hot! Ketchup, siracha, or chili paste on the side are optional.