An anonymous reader recently commented on my post The Great Debate where I discussed the merits of the sweet, pie-shaped matzah brei that I grew up eating.
My father happens to be great in the kitchen, but the combined realities that he works six long days a week, and that my mother is a person who is obsessively neat, clean, and panicked about the mess others cooking in her kitchen would make, the extent to which he actually cooks is limited.
Central to just about every memory from my father's childhood is FOOD. When recollecting something about his parents, his childhood, his past - the conversation always relates back to food. His parents were both concentration camp survivors, and shortly after he was born, they moved from Norway to the very young state of Israel. (Norway was a stop on the way, not a place of origin for anyone in my family)
Those early years meant a lot of physical challenges to survive and make ends meet, often followed by my grandfather (the one from Jaworzno, PT) struggling to acquire or arrange something and likely having to march into one office or another and 'turn over a table.' But of course, afterward, there was always something simple, yet incredible to eat at home. Even in the ma'abara (transit camp), or the one-bedroom apartment with a combination bathroom/kitchen, or later from the gigantic cast-iron, wood-burning oven that came on their 'lift' from Norway.
My father's method for making matzah brei is his own father's method. Over the years, I've tried to learn it as closely as I can. However, it really is one of those things that I have seen done so many times, and still find confusing at some points. Kind of like when my father was trying to teach me how to drive to Brooklyn via the Interboro (Jackie Robinson) versus the Belt Parkway. I had to see it done a couple dozen times before it sunk in.
Readers will see that this matzah brei recipe definitely leads to a fair share of splashing and dripping messes. It seems involved, but is quite simple once you've done it once or twice. Like driving to Brooklyn on the Interboro.
Although this is not a cookbook recipe, my father and I pieced the approximate recipe together as follows:
Use a 10-inch frying pan,. Recipe serves approximately 4 hungry people.
In a bowl, beat 4-5 eggs, and add around a cup of milk (enough to make the eggs more watery than sticky).
In another bowl, place an equal amount of cold water.
Using machine matzahs, break up each matzah approximately into thirds and then each third in half (six approximate squares).
Heat up the dry frying pan. Add oil to hot pan, enough to coat it well, and rotate the pan to coat the sides well, keeping flame to low-medium.
One by one, place each piece of matzah into the water. It is important that you allow the matzah to get lightly softened in the water, but not soaked.
Then dip the wet matzah into the egg mixture.
Layer the pieces in frying pan, going around the pan and gradually building up to the top of the pan in a circular pattern.
While you work, continually take the pan by the handle and jostle the pan vigorously to ensure that the matzah brei is not sticking. This is crucial. If the brei sticks, it will fall apart. If it is getting stuck in spots, scrape the bottom of the matzah brei with a fork and shake the brei loose, keeping it in one solid piece.
Once the pan is full, and you've built the pieces up to the top, cover the frying pan, and bring up the heat a little. Let the matzah brei cook a couple of minutes longer in the steam of the covered pan. Pick up lid and shake matzah brei loose. Cover the pan again and steam cook a little longer, checking to see that it is getting crisp and brown on the bottom.
Place a plate over the pan and turn the matzah brei out onto the plate. The crisp brown bottom should now be on top.
Place more oil into the frying pan and heat the oil on low-medium.
Slide the brei back into the pan, letting it brown on the other side, continuing to shake it loose periodically. Once the second side is brown, turn the matzah brei out onto a plate again. Let it cool for a couple of minutes, and then slice into 4 quarters that are pie-shaped. Toppings are as desired, but we serve it with sugar and/or raspberry jam both on the side, for dipping the cut pieces.