Matzo Brei: Jewish Passover Breakfast Dish Instructions
Today I’m going to tell you how to make a Jewish dish, matzo brei.Jump to Recipe
First of all, I want to make it clear that I’m not Jewish, and all the information in this post is from (I hope) reliable sources, not from my own experiences. So, I apologize up front for any misinformation I present here. I’ve made every effort to ensure the post is accurate. Please leave a comment below if you have any corrections or additional information I should know (I’m looking at you, Stan!).
That said, I looked forward to researching this post especially because I knew I’d probably learn some interesting cultural points. Boy, did I!
I first read about matzo brei (rhymes with “eye”) from a Jewish friend’s FB post – he said he was making it for his family for Passover breakfast. I asked for his recipe, a variation of which you see below. I also consulted the internets to find other variations and methods. I listed many of those, too.
Matzo brei is basically broken-up pieces of matzo crackers mixed into beaten eggs with a little seasoning and fried up in a skillet. What surprised me most is that I’ve been making a similar dish that I learned from my very Catholic mother all my life, except instead of matzo crackers, I use saltines! I guess that’s the Gentile/shiksa version!
Anyway, another thing about matzo is that there are several different spellings: matzoh, matza, matzah. This happens when a word is taken from a language that doesn’t use the same alphabet as English. I arbitrarily chose the spelling “matzo” because that’s the way it was spelled on the matzo I bought.
Matzo is used because of the Jewish dietary restrictions of Passover, which dictate that people eat only unleavened bread. Passover lasts seven days (or eight for some), beginning on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan, which ends up being around Easter time in the Christian calendar.
Passover commemorates the exodus of the Jewish people out of Egypt after generations of slavery there. I found a very good rundown of the Passover story and traditions at chabad.org. It’s good reading if you’re into it.
In any case, the Jews left Egypt so quickly that their bread had no time to rise. The dietary restriction in this case, therefore, is to eat only unleavened bread. Hence, matzo is a mixture of flour and water which is baked into thin wafers shortly after mixing.
Matzo is used in many forms to keep kosher (to maintain adherence to the dietary laws), such as finely ground for cakes and cookies or in meal form as breadcrumbs, etc. The matzo meal is used in matzo ball soup, one of my favorite things! I love the ingenuity Jewish cooks have come up with in order to have a large variety of food despite some fairly strict dietary restrictions.
I look forward to trying more Jewish recipes in the future, so please point me in the right direction if you have any. My Jewish friend claimed my Jewish almond cake was spot on, so I’ll have to post that recipe eventually, too.
For now, happy Passover, Easter or whatever other spring celebration you might observe. And here’s how I made my first matzo brei:
- 2 matzoh crackers
- 2 eggs
- 4 teaspoons milk
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon butter or oil
- Break up matzoh crackers into 1-inch pieces or smaller and soak in warm water or milk for no longer than 30 seconds. Drain well. Alternatively, put matzoh pieces in a colander and pour about a quart of hot water over them.
- Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl.
- Whisk in 4 teaspoons milk, salt and pepper.
- Add softened matzoh pieces and stir well to coat.
- Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add butter or oil.
- Add the matzoh mixture. You can add it altogether and stir during cooking to make something like scrambled eggs. Or you could add the matzoh in separate half-cupfuls and cook them like pancakes. Or you can cook the whole batch at once without stirring, but turn halfway through to make a large, omelette-like disk. In any case, cook until eggs are just cooked through, although some prefer a brown crust on the eggs. Remove to serving dish or plates.
- Serve warm or cold.
Making different-sized batches is easy: one egg per each matzoh cracker and season to taste.
Variations for savory: In addition to the salt and pepper, add a pinch of dried parsley, thyme or rosemary, or even a mixture of sauteed onions, mushrooms and herbs. This flavorful savory version can be used as a side dish similar to stuffing. Some families serve a side of sour cream with fresh dill for a topping.
For sweet variations, omit pepper and add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Serve with applesauce, a sprinkling of powdered sugar, grape jelly or some other kind of jam.
You could even go way off script and serve with hot sauce, though I don’t think that’s exactly traditional!