(by Margaret Crane)
My mother, who almost never cooked, used to treat a holiday meal like a performance—evidence of her prowess at directing the theater of home. It was never about the food, per se, but about appearances—Was the setting camera-ready? How did we look sitting around the table?—proof that we were indeed a wonderful family living a wonderful life. But Passover was different. It was about the food, and one dish we loved in particular was fried matzoh.
Passover, an eight-day Jewish spring fest, commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. As they escaped through the desert, they didn’t have time to let their bread rise. Matzoh, which to me has the taste and consistency of cardboard, is today’s ceremonial equivalent of the unleavened bread.
My three siblings and I would grimace at the thought of eight days consuming various iterations of matzoh, with one exception: fried matzoh. As we gathered to watch our mother beat the eggs and grate the onions, our kitchen, which was rarely the scene of family cooking, took on a magical familial atmosphere.
Mother would start by breaking the matzoh into two-inch pieces and running hot tap water over them to make them moist and pliable. (Sounds like a mess, but it worked.) One or two eggs per person went in, along with lots of grated onion, copious amounts of salt, and a dash of pepper. She’d put a large dollop of butter in an iron skillet and fry the mixture, leaving a crispy outside and mushy inside.
Neither I nor any of my siblings are particularly religious, but the fried matzoh-making is still going strong decades later, always during Passover and many other times as a breakfast or dinner treat. Sadly, my children haven’t taken up the mantle, but when we get together, it’s often a special request. In the meantime, two of my siblings and I (my sister Vinnie doesn’t cook) offer a taste of what our mother cooked up with our individual riffs on the original recipe.
My Fried Matzoh
1 matzoh per person (whatever kind I have in the pantry)
3 eggs per 4 pieces of matzoh
1 small grated white onion
kosher salt (use it generously)
dash of cracked pepper
chopped chives (1/2 t. per egg)
2 T. of butter
sprinkling of parsley
hot sauce (optional)
Break matzoh into pieces, place in colander, and run water over it.
Drain on paper towels.
Beat the eggs and add the broken matzoh, onion, salt, pepper, and chives.
Melt butter an iron skillet, and pour in the mixture.
Cook until crispy on both sides.
Sprinkle with parsley and optional hot sauce.
My sister Mary Anne’s Fried Matzoh
6 thin tea matzohs (plain or whole wheat)
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. milk (or more, if matzoh still seems dry)
1 large yellow onion, grated
1/2 t. or more ground black pepper
4 T. butter
Wet the matzos by running them under hot water and crumble into a bowl.
Add eggs and milk. (Mixture should be quite soggy.)
Add grated onion and pepper.
Crush the matzos with a wooden spoon and let soak for a few minutes.
Melt butter in a wok.
Add the matzoh mixture, and cook over medium heat until the mixture has the consistency of slightly wet scrambled eggs.
Add freshly ground pepper and salt, to taste.
My brother Keith’s Fried Matzoh
3 matzohs per person (thin tea matzohs preferred)
1 - 2 c. milk
3 eggs per 6 matzohs, beaten
1/3 of large yellow onion, diced
generous amounts of kosher salt
pepper to taste, freshly ground in mortar and pestle
2 T. vegetable oil
1 heaping T. rendered bacon fat (optional)
In a large enough mixing bowl, break up matzohs and add milk to soak.
Once matzohs have softened, pour off liquid, and mix in eggs.
In a large, deep skillet, heat oil.
Sauté onion over medium heat until translucent.
Salt and pepper taste.
Add matzoh mixture to the pan and stir to combine.
Raise heat to medium high, and cover with a lid.
Continue stirring frequently and replacing the lid for 5 – 10 minutes.
Remove lid for last few minutes to allow mixture to crisp.
Optional: Dribble with bacon fat and stir well.