Eating Jewish: Coconut Matzah Brei
I’m going to let you in on a little secret of mine: I actually like those tinned coconut macaroons that come out for Passover each year. They have to be one of the first things I reach for when I get into the Kosher for Passover section, and I could easily finish one of these tins in just a few days. It’s one of those things I’m embarrassed to admit I like, especially since homemade baked goods are so much better than any dessert that comes in a package. But those chewy coconut mounds get me every time--I blame the fact that I’m a sucker for almost anything with coconut in it.
Another favorite Passover dish of mine is the iconic matzah brei, a must have on many people’s Passover tables. The beauty of this dish lies in its simplicity; the only ingredients you need to make it are eggs, matzah, and a little salt. Using this basic combination as a jumping off point, the dish can be taken in many delicious directions. In order to put my own twist on the classic matzah brei, I realized I could take the flavors of the coconut macaroon I love so much and put them into this dish. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but the combination is a perfect match.
The recipe for matzah brei was first seen in print in the first English language cookbook, The Jewish Manual, published in London in 1846. The recipe was called “Fried Matsos,” and was a variation on the dish we know today; it didn’t contain eggs, but rather whole matzahs were simply fried in butter or schmaltz (chicken fat).
Recipes for the kind of matzah brei we currently eat appeared in later cookbooks. A recipe for “Ueberschlangene Matzos or Matzos Dipped in Eggs” was included in Aunt Babette’s cookbook published in Cincinatti in 1889. This recipe called for whole matzahs to be coated in beaten eggs and then fried until golden brown. There was also a recipe in the first edition of the Settlement cookbook called “Matzos Pancakes” in which pieces of matzah were dipped in an egg mixture, fried until light brown and sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest.
The dish eventually got its name from Eastern European Jews living in the United States who began calling it matzoh brei, meaning matzah "pulp" or "mash" in Yiddish.
This recipe is just as easy to make as regular matzah brei, but the addition of shredded coconut, along with vanilla and almond extracts infuses it with the flavors of a coconut macaroon. It produces a matzah brei that is golden and slightly crispy on the outside, with dense layers of soft eggy matzah that are coated with pieces of coconut. Not too sweet and with a subtle taste of coconut, it is a great dish to serve at breakfast or brunch throughout the holiday and even afterwards (I know I’ll definitely be making this year round!). Some pineapple and melted chocolate are the perfect accompaniments.
Do you have your own take on the traditional matzah brei? I’d love to hear about your ideas!
Coconut Matzah Brei
4 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup sugar
About 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Pineapple to serve alongside (optional)
Melted chocolate for drizzling (optional)
Break matzahs into 2-3 inch pieces. Place in a small bowl and cover with lukewarm water. Place a plate over the matzah pieces so they remain covered with water, let stand for 5 minutes and drain the water from the bowl.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract and salt. Add the coconut and sugar and mix to combine. Add the matzah to the bowl and stir until the matzah is coated in the egg mixture.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Spread the matzah mixture evenly in the pan. Let the matzoh brei cook, without touching it, for 5 minutes. Carefully flip the matzah brei with a spatula. It’s okay if it breaks into pieces at this point, simply flip the individual pieces and let cook until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.
The matzah brei is delicious served along with pineapple and drizzled with chocolate if you’re feeling indulgent!