Yes, folks, now that the financial sector is in total collapse and we’re staring down the very real possibility of a new Great Depression, it’s time for another installment of what will clearly be our ongoing series, Recession* Food! Those of us who didn’t make millions running banks into the ground are tightening our belts, cashing in our change jars and wondering about that seven hundred billion dollars (!!) we’re being told we’ll hand over to the rich, so I’m afraid I won’t be reviewing many fancy restaurants on this blog anytime soon. Seriously, a loaf of bread, a block of store-brand cheddar and a bag of Lay’s chips just cost me eight bucks. It’s going to be a rough winter. I will, however, be creative at finding ways to make tasty, nutritious food as cheaply as possible. After all, that’s what most of the six billion people on this planet try to do every day. Which brings us to matzo brei (or matzah brei), a Jewish favorite with Ashkenazi origins.
I’m not Jewish, and it’s been only recently (thanks largely to the lovely folks at the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation) that I’ve been introduced to the joys of Jewish culinary traditions. So my introduction to matzo brei came from a book: the delightful Garlic and Sapphires, former New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl’s memoir of her adventures in dining. In one chapter toward the end of the book, Reichl is describing a period when the backbiting and snobbery of the food world began to get under her skin. She reacts one night by cancelling her reservation to a lofty temple of haute cuisine and staying home with her two-year-old son making matzo brei, his favorite.
This matzo-and-egg dish is incredibly simple, quick and cheap. (It’s also vegetarian and very Crohn’s-friendly, with its high protein and easily digested matzo.**) I used Manichewitz ‘everything’ matzo, which, like the ‘everything’ bagel, has bits of onion, garlic and poppy seed for some added flavor. There are lots of versions out there, including one that’s closer to a fritatta; there are also sweet versions with fruit and sour cream.
This recipe is meant for two, but Joe and I found that it took three crackers and four eggs to satisfy us. Enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner. This takes five minutes to make. Really.
Matzo Brei (recipe by Ruth Reichl)
2 matzo crackers
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Set a colander inside a bowl (to catch the crumbs) and break the matzos into little pieces, dropping them into the colander. Remove the colander from the bowl and hold it beneath running water until the matzos are damp. Allow them to drain; then put the damp matzos into a bowl.
Break the eggs into the bowl and stir with a fork just until mixed. Add salt to taste.
Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the matzo-egg mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, or until the egg is cooked and there are a few crispy little bits.
Put on plates and serve at once.
(Note: This might be blasphemy, but the spice lovers in my household ate this with a generous dollop of Sriracha hot sauce.)
*Stay tuned, I may have to rename it “Depression Food” and start offering recipes for roadkill and bathtub gin if this keeps up.
**Celiacs, you can buy gluten-free oat matzo, or try this recipe. I haven’t tried these, so I can’t comment on their quality. For those with wheat allergies who can tolerate spelt, though, I have eaten spelt matzo and it is freaking delicious. Both are available from MatzahOnline.com.