Citizens – today is the first day of Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) – a day of great celebration and feasting in Jewish homes worldwide and the always faithful TFD is no different! If you’re unfamiliar with Passover, this link will answer all of your questions!
The recipe I choose to share with you is one of great בענקשאַפט (benkshaft), a Yiddish word meaning “nostalgia”. Given that Passover and Easter fall on the same days this year thanks to the unusual moving nature of the Jewish lunar calendar, it seems apropos to share an egg-based recipe!
All Jews “of a certain age” remember their grandparents (or great-grandparents in my fortunate case) making this oldest-school dish for Pesach, and it seems to be inextricably tied to the holiday amongst Jews of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) origin. It’s an extremely simple dish – one designed to make the cheapest and most easily-accessible ingredients stretch out and offer much-needed calories to the hard-working family.
It’s just eggs, onions, fat, salt and pepper in the original version – sometimes deliciously enhanced by gribenes, pieces of fried chicken skin made from rendering chicken fat. In other words, it’s the best egg salad you’ll ever try – Jewish or not, you’ll fall head over heels for this delicious recipe, I promise!
As noted in this lightly-edited post on mondaymorningcookingclub.com.au back in 2014 (the last time the holidays overlapped):
It’s hard to believe it is already this time of the year! I quite like it when both Easter and Passover occur simultaneously – doesn’t happen that often but when it does it really highlights the cultural diversity in Australia.
As the entire nation is feasting on Easter eggs (in every shape, size, composition and quality) as well as hot cross buns from the (ordinary) now-choc-chip-filled supermarket varieties in neat half-dozen plastic bags to the irresistible spice-scented glazed sourdough version at the local organic baker – it is hard to resist.
At the same time, members of the Jewish community are buying up boxes of matzo (unleavened bread), matzo meal, matzo flour, matzo cakes (I could go on) and many many MANY dozens of eggs. Everyone links Easter with the egg, but really Passover should be called the FESTIVAL OF THE EGG.
I think for my mum’s Passover Seder (the traditional meal on the eve of Passover), she must go through at least 10 dozen. Eggs are the main ingredient in matzo balls and flourless egg ‘noodles’ for soup, boiled eggs with salt water are served as part of the Seder to represent the hardened hearts and salty sweat and tears of the Jewish slaves.
Eggs are essential in most Passover cakes which, containing no flour or rising agents, require stiffly whisked egg whites to give them volume and substance. Macaroons are made with egg whites and nuts to give a luscious chewy Passover biscuit. A favourite Passover breakfast is ‘Matzo-brai’, a dish somewhere between French toast (using matzo instead of bread) and scrambled eggs.
So at least we know why we are all talking about the egg!
Without a doubt, my favourite egg recipe is the simplest one I have, and probably the oldest one I know. It’s known as ‘Egg and Onion’, or ‘E & O’ if you have been eating it for over 40 years, as I have!
Egg and Onion has been part of my parents’ Shabbat (Friday night) dinner for as long as I can remember and it is now part of mine. I serve it in bowls on the table so everyone can help themselves. It makes me smile to think of my mum who always serves each person at the table one whole scoop of egg and onion (using an ice-cream scoop!) on a piece of lettuce on each individual plate.
The recipe originated from my Buba (grandmother) Shendel in Poland in the 1920s. She taught it to her daughters, but not to her son (my father), who in turn taught it to their wonderful Greek housekeeper, Pat. When Pat started helping my mother in the kitchen on Friday afternoons, she passed it on (or rather, back) to my mother and eventually to me. It won’t be long before my kids will be making it.
One of my best food memories from my years at school was walking in on a Friday afternoon to the aroma of frying onions and being allowed to help Pat and Mum season (and of course taste!!) this wonderful dish.
I have adapted the classic recipe for this only slightly with a single, very optional ingredient: a touch of white miso in the chicken fat adds an incredible umami boost and there is NO taste of miso in the final dish. However, if you so prefer, you can easily leave this out to make the full-on classic! I also use miso in my deviled eggs recipe and it is insanely successful there.
Few things in life are as savory and delicious as this Jewish dish of dishes, Citizens! Whether you are Jewish or not, it really doesn’t matter at all when it comes to enjoying this homey recipe!
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