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Battle of the Brei

My father said I shouldn’t write about matzah brei because it’s just not that good. His main complaint: “It always needs salt.” In my household growing up, this was true. But after a heavy shower from the saltshaker and a … Read More

By / April 16, 2007
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My father said I shouldn’t write about matzah brei because it’s just not that good. His main complaint: “It always needs salt.” In my household growing up, this was true. But after a heavy shower from the saltshaker and a long squeeze from the ketchup bottle, my mother’s matzah brei was toothsome indeed.

Mom never made it fancy: I always thought of hers as scrambled eggs more than anything else, and it didn’t take much more effort to prepare. I’d pass through the kitchen the week after Passover to find her stuffing leftover matzat into a pie dish filled with raw eggs, then weighing them down with a second plate, always careful to stay over the sink lest—GASP—spillage occur. (My mom has a knack for a spotless kitchen: messy preparations always happen over the sink or trashcan and no crumb escapes a damp Bounty.)

I always liked matzah brei and felt comforted by that overflowing pie plate. I’d even packed leftovers in Tupperware for lunch in grade school, where I was one of the few token Jews. My classmates would collectively gawk as I emptied at least six ketchup packets into the corner of my dish.

Foodies, on the other hand, tend to agree with my dad. Matzah brei is hardly regarded as the pinnacle of Jewish cuisine or culinary deftness, making it an excellent candidate for a makeover. As per Nosh-Off rules, I found a classic recipe and a new one, cooking them both in my apartment one Sunday night.

The traditional recipe comes from New York City’s Barney Greengrass, a 99-year-old restaurant and food store specializing in old-fashioned Jewish cuisine. Its challenger is an olive-and-caper pizza on matzah brei crust from Mitchell Davis of the James Beard Foundation. Both recipes met the ultimate requirement: They use up all those matzah box barnacles clinging to your shelves post-Pesach.

While I was at it, I tried to settle an old score with a bonus competition. Matzah brei toppings are a subject of much debate: Should the dish be served savory, with caramelized onions, salt, or ketchup? Or sweet, with preserves, powdered sugar, or applesauce? Barney Greengrass serves it both ways, so I did the same.

Next: The classic deli recipe done two ways

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