In my home, where there were Sephardic influences from my father’s side of the family, we always enjoyed traditional Greek dishes. None more important at our Passover table than what we call, matzo meat cakes. There are Egyptian and Turkish versions, some layered like lasagna, others topped with mashed potatoes like Shepherd's pie. My great grandmother’s version, with its roots from the Isle of Rhodes, is slow simmered ground beef sandwiched between softened matzo and baked to a crisp golden brown. They are great hot or cold, make a terrific lunch, satisfying dinner or midnight snack.
3 pounds ground beef 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for assembling the cakes 10 large onions, chopped 10 ounces chicken stock Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 6 (7-inch) square aluminum disposable pans 9 eggs (5 eggs for the cakes, 4 eggs for the coating) Matzo meal 1 box, Streit’s, unsalted matzo (have an extra box standing by)
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet, cook and stir the ground beef, over medium heat, until completely browned, about 7 minutes. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and reserve. Pour off the fat from the pan. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil to the skillet, cook and stir the onions, over medium heat until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. If your pan cannot hold all the onions, cook them in batches, adding additional oil if needed. When the onions are lightly browned, add the meat back into the pan. Pour one-third of the stock into the meat and onion mixture. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook 1 ½ to 2 hours, adding a little stock every 30 minutes until all has been incorporated. Season generously to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the meat mixture into a bowl and allow it to cool (you can cover and refrigerate overnight, be sure to bring the meat and onions back to room temperature before proceeding to the next step).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and pour a little olive oil into the bottom of each aluminum pan. When the oven is hot, place the pans in the oven to heat the oil- this will prevent the meat cakes from sticking to the pan and help the bottoms crisp up. Beat 5 eggs and add to the meat mixture. Slowly add matzo meal until the mixture is thickened and a little gummy, and all the liquid has been absorbed.
In a separate bowl, beat the remaining 4 eggs with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Lay a damp cloth on your counter and dampen a second cloth. Now comes the delicate portion of the recipe which takes a little practice to get it just right; hang in there, it will be worth it. Hold 1 piece of matzo under warm running water until it is pliable, like a piece of wet cardboard. Place the matzo on the damp towel and repeat with a 2nd piece of matzo. Cover both pieces with the second damp towel and lightly press down.
Remove one pan from the oven and swirl the oil to make sure it is evenly distributed. Hold one softened piece of matzo in your hand, and dip your other hand into the egg and oil. Coat the matzo on both sides with the egg and oil, (you can use a pastry brush, but it’s so much less fun). Place the matzo in the pan. Spoon one-sixth of the meat mixture onto the matzo. Generously coat both sides of the 2nd piece of softened matzo with the egg and oil and top with the meat mixture. Lightly press down to evenly distribute the meat sandwiched in between the two pieces of matzo. Using the tip of a very sharp knife, gently score the cake into 4 pieces, being sure not to pierce the bottom of the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes. Repeat with the remaining five pans.
When done, the meat cakes should be brown on top. Remove them from the oven and cool slightly before removing them from the pan. (I find cutting away the sides with a scissor helps release the cakes easily). Flip the cakes over allowing the bottoms to cool and become a little crisper. You can leave them in large squares, or cut the squares on the diagonal.
Yields 24 large (48 triangular) pieces
Start to Finish Under 4 hours
Behind the CounterLean ground beef is traditional. Alternate cuts ground veal or lamb (+$).
Watch June demonstrate her recipe for Matzo Meal Cakes