A Very Southern Pesach

Photo by Kristina O’Quinn

Passover started on Monday night. Jews across the city, state, country, and world, ate the bread of affliction and opened our doors for Elijah. We sat around tables for hours and hours and hours, asking more questions than we thought possible, drinking a LOT of wine (Baron Herzog, please, Manischewitz is for amateurs!), and consuming a lot of horseradish.

And, of course, the best way to learn about Pesach (Pay-Sock or Pay-Sah-ch, like the ending of the Scottish loch) is to eat! I’m the unofficial head chef of my synagogue and have written about 8 different menus for the holiday, including a French onion soup with cheese-stuffed matzo balls, a caramelized cauliflower salad with skordalia dressing and roasted almonds, and zucchini fritto with mint, but for now, let’s talk Southern Jewish food. Let’s talk gravy. 

(Although, matzo ball pro-tip, instead of putting the matzo balls in soup, add some sugar to the batter, fry them, then roll them around in cinnamon sugar for a snack or dessert.)

No Pesach would be complete without matzo brei for breakfast. Most Jews have a fond memory of their aunt or zayde shuffling around with their Elite Instant coffee, cracking some eggs into a tupperware bowl, and loudly wondering where the Pesach spatula went. It’s a break

The brei of our youth.

fast of champions. It’s got a million variations. It’s the best thing to happen to the egg since the French perfected the omelette. Maybe not since Japanese soy sauce eggs, but you get the point.

Matzo brei doesn’t take a lot of skill, either. It is usually served completely scrambled or like a pancake. It’s usually done on the skillet. We’re going to be putting them in a muffin tin. We will be pretending they are biscuits. This may not be the way bubbe would make this dish. She may even refuse to eat this. And I would tell my bubbe to pretend it’s a kugel and live life to the fullest because it’s delicious.

You will also be making a roux with potato starch because we can’t use flour on Pesach. We will be adding fresh rosemary, but thyme, tarragon, whatever you want will be fine.

Matzo Brei-scuits and White Gravy

For the Brei-scuits (about 6)

2 sheets of matzo
2 large eggs
Kosher salt (to taste)
White pepper
Olive oil or butter

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 (or just know your oven, my oven at home does best at 375 instead). Cover the matzo in a bowl with some warm water. You can also use warm milk, but that doesn’t conveniently come out of the tap.
  2. Break and thoroughly beat the eggs until you don’t see any strands of white. Season to taste. If you decide to just go ahead and do these as pancakes, start adding some chopped onion, garlic, and paprika. Don’t put those in your brei-scuits, though.
  3. Once your eggs are beaten and seasoned, drain the motza, break them up really well (fork or potato masher, ya’ll) and pour your eggs on them and give the a good stir. Grease a muffin tin with olive oil or butter, pour your batter in about halfway, then pop them in the oven for about 3 minutes. Then flip the tray around in the oven and in about 3-5 minutes, they should be set. If not, flip them one more time for one more 3 minute go. Meanwhile…

For the Gravy
1/2 stick of butter
1 ¼ cup of hot milk (microwave until it isn’t pleasant to touch, but don’t scald it)
2-3 tablespoons of potato starch, depending on how thick you want it
1 ½ teaspoons of white pepper (I like a lot, you can add way less)
1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary with the leaves removed from the stem and coarsely chopped

  1. Now, I know this is just a bechamel, but for our purposes, it’s gravy. So get out a saucepan and a stirring device. Melt the butter on a medium flame. Let it get a little bit bubbly. Add the starch and stir it up. When the color gets toastier, add the hot milk and keep stirring.
  2. Add the pepper. Keep stirring on low heat for another 2 or so minutes.
  3. Cut the heat, stir in the rosemary.
    Put your matzo brei on a plate, pour the gravy over it, and there you go!

 

Another Pesach dish that marries Jewish and Southern food is this one:

Photo by Kristina O’Quinn

Matzo Fried Deviled Eggs

You’ll need:
3 hardboiled eggs (as many as you’d like, really)
1 ½  cups of matzo meal
Salt to taste
Paprika to taste
Half a saucepan worth or oil (you can use a deep fryer if you have one, of course)

½ cup of mayonnaise
Juice from half a lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cloves of garlic
½ a shallot

  1. Slice your eggs in half and remove the yolk into a separate bowl.  You can do this as your oil heats up to 365 degrees. Mix the matzo meal with the salt and paprika and then coat your eggs in the mix. Carefully drop the eggs into the oil and let them fry, stirring once until they are starting to take on a slightly golden color. Remove from the oil and let them drain on a paper towel.
  2. Make the filling by mashing up the yolks and mix them with the mayonnaise and lemon juice. I add a little olive oil to get it creamier when using kosher for Passover mayonnaise. Grate the garlic into the mix, then grate in half a shallot. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Fill the eggs with the mixture. You can use a pastry bag or a spoon (depending if you remembered to buy some before the holiday or not!). Sprinkle some paprika over the eggs, or sprinkle on some flaky sea salt or parmesan. Then top it off with slices of scallion or go for fresh dill, sliced okra, or some pickle relish.

Enjoy and have a wonderful Pesach!

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