Kosher for Passover: Matzo Meal Blintzes

Cheese blintzes are one of the most iconic Jewish dishes. Soft, warm, comforting, and cheesy, they combine everything that’s great about crepes with everything that’s great about, well, cheese. A traditional Shavuot dish, this spin on the classic treat from the 1977 cookbook So Eat, My Darling: A Guide to the Yiddish Kitchen, transforms them into a kosher for Passover delight.

 

So Eat, My Darling is the only cookbook I’ve ever seen that has both a recipe author credit (Naf Avnon) and a “folklore” credit (Uri Sella.) The cookbook itself is full of all the kitsch and questionable, though period-appropriate, food photography; this unique charm is part of what makes leafing through the cookbooks in the American Jewish Historical Society library collection so incredibly fun! On the hunt for a Passover-appropriate recipe I came upon matzo meal blintzes which presented the perfect historic culinary challenge.

 

Blintzes became popular in the United States during the Age of Migration (approximately 1880-1920.) In cartoonist and food historian Ben Katchor’s research for his book The Dairy Restaurant, he came upon an ad from an 1890 issue Der Kibetser, a popular satirical newspaper, for ‘Buckarester blintzes’ placed there by Romanian immigrant and restaurant owner, Jacob Kampus. Accompanying the ad was a (fake) complaint from local doctors and pharmacists, alleging that they were losing business because their patients’ stomach problems were cured by eating Kampus’s healthy dairy foods. (While I'm never one to endorse a health claim ginned up for the sake of advertising, I do think we should consider reclaiming some of the dairy restaurant industry’s ‘sour cream as health food’ rhetoric of the early 1900s!) The restaurant’s slogan? “Eat Blintzes and Get Fat!”

 

Kampus had initially been selling placinta, a Romanian stuffed pancake dish similar in flavor to the blintz. Rebranding placintas as ‘Buckarester Blintzes,” Kampus marketed his regional cuisine to a larger Jewish audience, banking on the familiarity of his Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Russian neighbors with blintzes and blinis. This linguistic pivot certainly helped Kampus’s business, which was open for 24 years at 64 Delancey Street. The Lower East Side was once full of dairy restaurants like Kampus'; counter-service spots that provided meatless meals for kosher, working-class customers. Though dairy restaurants were once commonplace in the Lower East Side, they have since become a fading phenomenon. The batter for the blintzes from So Eat, My Darling yields a thicker pancake than standard blintzes; final product might look a bit more like an egg roll than a crepe. These aren’t too sweet, but you can play with the filling based on your savory vs. sweet preferences.

 

For most blintz recipes, you’re instructed to quickly swirl the pan after pouring in the batter to coat thinly, like you would with a crepe. I tried this, but the thickness of the batter made it impossible (at least, in my cast iron pan). I had more success pouring the batter into the heated pan, and then spreading it around with an offset spatula to achieve the thin pancake. Please note that matzo meal will absorb the liquid you add to it, so the longer the batter sits, the thicker it will become. You can thin your batter out with water, add a tablespoon or two at a time. The thinner the better.

 

Blintzes are best served warm, so enjoy these quickly after taking them out of the pan. If you’re preparing them ahead of time as a dessert for Passover, you can assemble your blintzes and keep them covered in the refrigerator for up to a day, and give them that final fry just before serving. Enjoy!

 

Matzah Meal Blintzes 

Recipe by Naf Avnon, adapted by Aurora Clare 

 

Dough 

3 eggs, beaten 1 1⁄3 cup water, plus more as needed

1 cup matzo meal 

1⁄2 tsp salt 1⁄3 cup butter or margarine, softened 

 

Filling

1⁄2 pound (one box) cream cheese, softened 

1 egg, beaten 1 1⁄2 tsp sugar 1⁄2 tsp salt 

 

Instructions 

1. Combine eggs, water, matzo meal, and salt. Mix well, breaking up any clumps. 

2. Heat skillet and brush it with a small amount of butter or margarine. For each blintz, pour a small amount (about 1⁄3 cup) of batter onto the pan, moving quickly to thin it out either by spreading it around the pan with an offset spatula, or by tilting the pan. Thin batter with water as you go, if needed. 

3. Cook the blintz only on one side until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Place blintzes in a stack on a paper towel-lined plate, cooked side up. 

4. Prepare the filling by mixing all ingredients together until smooth. 

5.Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of each pancake, cooked side up. Fold either side of the pancake up over the filling, then wrap up from the bottom to roll and close. 

6. Heat the remaining butter/margarine in the skillet, and fry the rolled blintzes until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes each. 

7. Once browned, transfer blintzes to a fresh paper towel-lined plate. 

8. Top with either sour cream or powdered sugar and honey. 

9. Enjoy! 

 

For view a demonstration from Aurora Clare watch our program on Matzo Meal Blintzes.

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*Aurora Clare is a historian and educator based in New York City. She completed a Master’s Degree in History from New York University in 2016, with a thesis on domestic space and public housing in twentieth-century New York. Aurora has worked with institutions including the Tenement Museum and New-York Historical Society. Her food history project, History Bakes, is cataloged on Instagram at @historybakes. More information about her work can be found at www.auroraclare.com! 

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