I have a confession to make: I love matzoh.
What? No one loves matzoh. It's weird to love matzoh! Matzoh is flour and water. That's it. Maybe some salt. There are egg and onion versions, even chocolate-covered matzoh, all attempts to give it some cred.
Matzoh with truffle butter?
Well, I do. I even have my favorites. Sorry, but the American brands won't do. They're bland (and for matzoh, that's saying a lot!). I like the Israel-made Yehudah, which has a more pronounced wheat taste and seems fresher. It also has more char, which gives it dimension.
Yesterday, Itzik at work gave me the oddest matzoh I have ever seen. It comes as three round crackers in a very solid cardboard box, printed in full color. Three matzohs! The box is probably half their cost! But these matzohs are pretty special. They're hand made in the Ukraine and fired in a wood-burning oven, with a lot of serious charring. It's very good — not as fresh as the Yehudah but lots of character. You can even see the lines from the edges of the tiles of the oven floor.
My shikseh looked at them and suggested some pepperoni, sauce, and cheese. Traif but intriguing.
While matzoh has not so much flavor, perhaps, what it does have is history. The original on-the-run cuisine, matzoh came about when the Jews fled Egypt and there was no time to let the bread rise. For Passover, leavened bread is forbidden to honor their sacrifice. The spelling varies — matzo, matzah, matzot — and all the variations are correct, since they are all transliterations from Hebrew. The box Itzik's matzoh's came in used three different spellings!
So yes, I like matzoh. Even plain. It's not as weird as it sounds. Water crackers are basically matzoh. In , Words to Eat By, Debbie Koenig, self-confessed matzoh hater, begrudgingly calls it "the original flatbread."
Gourmets talk about simple ingredients, simply prepared. Matzoh tests the slogan. Eaten plain, it's the flour, and enough char to give it some character.
But where matzoh shines is as a blank slate for other flavors. Especially butter. A simple buttered matzoh with just the tiniest amount of salt really brings out the subtlest tastes in butter. Today, I upped the ante with some truffled butter I bought last weekend. That worked!
Then I remembered that I had just made some cream cheese (future article, I promise). Nice!
My favorite — a story for another day — is matzoh brei. Loosely, it's scrambled eggs and matzoh cooked in butter, but it's much lovelier than that. Tender on the inside, barley crisped at the edges. That will be a story for another day but you can read Debbie's matzoh brei story in the meantime.