The dish makes me feel connected to my heritage

Photo by Rebecca Firkser

The first time I had matzo brei I was somewhere around the age of 10, and my dad was at the stove. He cracked eggs and crumbled sheets of matzo into a bowl, then to my absolute horror said the mixture then had to sit to get soggy. I did not like soggy things. Dad told my sister and me that matzo brei was what his family ate for breakfast during Passover, when religious law told them to trade in their bagels for matzo meal.

My dad is not bad cook. He can definitely roast a better chicken than me, and even though he only wishes he were Italian, his pasta sauce is aces. But I’ve never liked my dad’s scrambled eggs. His eggs aren't bad, they’re just more like an omelet with a wet middle than a scramble. My mom’s eggs are silkier, uniform, practiced. However, I think the first time I actually told my dad I didn’t like his scrambled eggs was that morning of the matzo brei.

I really didn’t like it. I think I took a bite and was truly nauseated by the mushy texture of what had previously been a cracker, and the slippery-yet-firm egg binding didn’t help. I really wanted to like matzo brei, but I didn’t feel anything in that bite. I couldn’t put it into words at the time, but I’d hoped the dish would make me feel closer to my ancestors. It was tricky when I young—neither my Jewish dad nor Christian mom were especially pious, and so the extent of my relationship with religion was pretty limited to lighting the menorah and making cookies for Santa. While I had no real yearning to find proper-noun-God, I always felt like I was missing something special during the Jewish celebrations. Like my favorite Disney princess, I wanted to be a part of that world.

Perhaps my religious interest peaked at Passover because the ceremony is so tied to food. I was reeled in by the strong flavors (honey, horseradish, coconut) and intrigued by the rules: we can eat this, not that, and only at this time of year; we don’t start the meal until sunset; we can’t use flour in cake this week. Rules are my home base, and food my main game. Food is how I interact with my Judaism.

I started making my own matzo brei as I got older, when I was left alone to play in the kitchen. Instead of thinking of the dish as a scramble, I treat it as a fritter. My matzo brei may may look and taste more like latkes, which I can’t say is an accident—have you had a latke? Everything should taste like that, but matzo brei it is. For these matzo brei fritters, I make a classic egg and matzo base, then incorporate other flavors from Passover into the batter. The first is inspired by charoset, the dish of fruit and nuts served at the seder. Though charoset is meant to represent the mortar enslaved Israelites were forced to work with, the sweet dish is always a favorite at the Passover seder. The resulting matzo brei fritter is similar to French toast, and there’s no harm in that, especially if you’re not eating bread during Passover.

The second matzo brei fritter incorporates gefilte fish. Although very few of my family members even like these balls of congealed whitefish, they’re always, always served at my seder, and thus deserve a place in my matzo brei. The best part of working the fish into matzo brei fritters is that only the slightly fishy flavor transfers over to the dish, making them more like crabcakes than anything else. You can fight me and say that it’s not matzo brei unless it looks like a pile of wet yet clumpy scrambled eggs, a la my dad or your great aunt Shirlee—and I respect that—but this is where I’ve landed.

Sweet Charoset Matzo Brei Fritters

Photo by Rebecca Firkser

Yield: 9-12 matzo brei fritters Active Prep Time: 10 minutes Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

½ Gala apple
2 pitted deglet noor dates
1 tablespoon chopped toasted walnuts, plus extra for serving
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
Kosher salt
2 sheets matzo
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-3 tablespoons butter
Sour cream or Greek yogurt, for serving
Jam or maple syrup, for serving

Directions

1. Mince the apple and dates and place in a small bowl with chopped walnuts. Toss with honey and cinnamon, then set aside.

2. Beat 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon water, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Stir in apple mixture.

3. Break matzo into bite-sized pieces and stir into the egg mixture. Let soak for 10-15 minutes, then give the mixture another stir.

4. Heat vegetable oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Scoop ¼-cup spoonfuls of matzo brei batter into the pan (2-3 should fit, depending on the size of your skillet) and cook until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook for another minute. Just before the fritters are finished, drop 1 tablespoon butter into the pan, let it melt and begin to brown, then baste each fritter with a bath of brown butter.

5. Fry the remaining matzo brei fritters (using another 1 tablespoon each vegetable oil and butter for each batch).

6. Serve matzo brei fritters with chopped walnuts, Greek yogurt or sour cream, and jam or maple syrup.

WATCH: Matzo Ball Ramen from Shalom Japan

Savory Gefilte Fish Matzo Brei Fritters

Photo by Rebecca Firkser

Yield: 9-12 matzo brei fritters Active Prep Time: 10 minutes Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

1 gefilte fish ball
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 eggs
2 sheets matzo
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
Black pepper
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon minced chives
Sour cream or Greek yogurt, for serving
Beet horseradish, for serving
Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

1. Dice the gefilte fish and place in a small bowl. Toss with lemon juice, and set aside.

2. Beat 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon water, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, a pinch of salt, and freshly ground black pepper in a medium bowl. Stir in the lemony gefilte fish.

3. Break matzo into bite-sized pieces and stir into the egg mixture. Let soak for 10-15 minutes, then give the mixture another stir.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Scoop ¼-cup spoonfuls of matzo brei batter into the pan (2-3 should fit, depending on the size of your skillet) and cook until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook for another minute. Just before the fritters are finished, drop 1 tablespoon butter into the pan, let it melt and begin to brown, then baste each fritter with a bath of brown butter.

5. Fry the remaining matzo brei fritters (using another 1 tablespoon each vegetable oil and butter for each batch).

6. Serve matzo brei fritters with a shower of dill and chives, a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt, beet horseradish, and a lemon wedge.