Tuesday, March 30, 2010
A Recipe for Comfort (And Passover)
When I was in college, I went through a (very long) phase in which I chose to date a series of stridently confident, smoothly handsome, big-man-on-campus, uniformly terrible men (boys?). I always knew better going into the playing field with these pretty, slithering louts but nothing could stop me from marching in with all the naivete and young, brazen foolishness that only being 18 and new to a city can provide.
After a few go-a-rounds, though, I found myself thoroughly exhausted, a bit battle-scarred to the heart, and longing for something (or someone) with more stability, something a little more sane. I decided to empty my basket, so to speak, of all the on-again-off-again non-relationships I was in and wait for something better. And that is precisely when I met Justin. It just goes to show that sometimes the universe will hand you exactly what you need if you'll only make room for it.
Justin was everything I could possibly have asked for in a boyfriend. He was attentive and caring, funny and driven, and best of all, he came fully equipped with a big, lovely family that would invite me over to their home for dinners that involved tables loaded with brisket and schnitzel and steaming hot potato knishes and a strangely comforting dish called matzo brei. As an Asian girl from Hawaii, I had never had much opportunity to discover Jewish foods, so the first Passover Seder I participated in with Justin's family was quite an eye-opener.
Matzo brei is an unexpected mixture of matzo crackers, eggs, salt and pepper fried up in a pat of melted butter until golden and crispy at the edges, soft in places, and with just the right touch of subtly salty comfort. I ate an embarrassing amount of it at that dinner table and eventually managed to pry the recipe for it from Justin's mother. It was a cheap, good, filling thing to whip up on a hungry whim during all those late, sleepless college nights and it sustained me through countless study sessions, sorority hazing rituals, and a few utterly broken hearts.
Justin and I--well, we eventually broke up as most college couples tend to do and it was absolutely heart-wrenching at the time. But I did inherit his mother's recipe for matzo brei, which is, to this day, the most perfect rendition of the dish I've ever tasted. I still make it even now--for a late, lazy Sunday breakfast or an even lazier Monday night dinner from time to time. It's easy, quick as lightning to make, and completely delicious. And that, I would say, is worth any fleeting heartbreak.
Here's the recipe. Happy Passover!
Mrs. H's Perfect Matzo Brei
3 square sheets of matzo
2 large eggs, beaten
Sea salt and pepper
Pat of butter for frying
Bring 4 cups of water to boil and pour into a bowl. Break the matzos into pieces and soak in the water for just a few minutes. Drain the water and pat the matzos dry. Return the matzos to the empty bowl.
Pour the beaten eggs into the bowl with salt and pepper to taste, and stir until combined.
Heat the butter in a frying pan until foam subsides. Take heaping tablespoonfuls of batter at a time and gently fry, patting the center down. You can make several small pancakes or one large pancake. When golden brown on one side, turn over with a spatula and fry on the other.
All photographs found on FoodMayhem.com's Flickr page.