Matzo brei is a relatively recent invention. According to the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,” the common brei recipe — soaked matzo dipped in egg and pan-fried — can be traced back to the late 19th century — or in Jewish terms, last week.
Despite the diversity of Jewish cuisine, that recipe has remained largely unchanged for 150 years. Yes, some like it sweet, others savory; some like it dry, others mushy (I like to brown both sides, almost like a Spanish omelet). But outside of these superficial differences, your basic brei is the same: moisten some matzo, crumble, mix in a couple of beaten eggs, fry, repeat for seven days.
Maybe that’s why I always have trouble staying away from chametz: brei fatigue. But now one talented L.A. chef has made it her mission to combat this (bread of) affliction. Each evening from April 7 to 13, Suzanne Tracht of Jar will be serving an innovative variation of matzo brei.
The creations reflect Tracht’s multicultural influences and her penchant for local, seasonal ingredients: Matzo Brei with Five Spring Onion; Chilequilles Style (like the Mexican dish of quartered and fried corn tortillas); with Pencil Asparagus, Burrata, and Brown Butter; with Roasted Shimeji Mushroom, Truffle Cheese and Salt; with Roasted Apple and Vermont Maple Syrup; and Matzo Brei Kimchi.
Tracht, who grew up in a kosher home, has long been interested in Jewish food: she has offered a seder at Jar for 10 years. And while she understands that many prefer to have a seder at home; the week of brei is a way to offer those guests a fine dining Passover experience.
The chef says that the variations are a way to experiment with a dish “that is a big part of the holiday but not always too exciting as a recipe.”
Tracht believes that home cooks can also combat brei ennui: “Put in a little love and be inventive. You’ll find that you can come up with your own variations using leftover vegetables or even fruits and nuts.”
She invites home cooks to post their ideas on Jar’s Facebook page. But this home cook will be trying one of her variations first. Chilequilles is a Sunday brunch signature dish at Jar; the chef was kind enough to provide her matzo brei version. I don’t think I’m going to wait for Pesach to make it.
If you have trouble finding the various dried chilies, the chef says that you can use any combination or just one, although the combination below produces the more complex flavor.
Next year at Jar, if not Jerusalem.
CHILAQUILES STYLE FRIED MATZO
4-5 sheets matzo
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Chilaquiles Sauce (see recipe below)
Garnish (see below)
Break the matzos into 4 quarters. Place matzos in square pan. Pour enough hot water over matzos to cover. Soak about 1 minute and drain. Mix eggs, milk, salt and pepper together. Carefully pour egg mixture over the matzos, making sure it gets in between the layers. Soak for 3-4 minutes.
Heat butter and oil in a skillet. Carefully add the matzo mixture. Cover and cook over a medium-low heat until the edges turn brown, about 4 or 5 minutes. Turn the pieces over and cook until done. If it is not completely set in the middle, place pan in oven to complete the cooking process.
4 Roma tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
½ brown onion
2 dried Chilede Àrbol peppers
2 dried Guajillo chile peppers
1 dried Chipotle chile pepper
Salt/Pepper to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 450°.
Toss all ingredients together and roast on a sheet pan for 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and place all ingredients into a sauce pan.
Add ¼ cup of water. Bring to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Blend until sauce is smooth.
4 tablespoons Crème fraiche
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
Spoon enough sauce on each plate to cover the bottom. Cut the fried matzo into 4 pieces and place the fried matzo on top of the sauce. Spoon the top with a few dollops of crème fraiche and sprinkle with Parmesan, cilantro, and onion to finish.
Chef Suzanne Tracht Jar Los Angeles, California