Jerusalem Kugel...Freeze-Dried Style
I know it’s already after Rosh Hashana but I really need to unload about my wonderful cooking experience with Kugel Yerushalmi (“Jerusalem Kugel”).
For those of you who don’t know what a ‘kugel’ is, it is a baked Jewish side dish or sometimes dessert generally made with noodles to which are added liquified sugar and oil and then a combo of beaten eggs, salt & pepper, after which it is baked.
It is sometimes translated as ‘pudding’ or ‘casserole.’
One of my favorite and more difficult kugels is Kugel Yerushalmi. It is a (very) sweet kugel, which satisfies Israelis’ sweet tooth, and is often made to be eaten on Shabbat, but is also especially appropriate for the holiday of Rosh Hashana, where most foods are sweet and a “sweet new year” is emphasized.
But, as I said above, it is more difficult to make than your average kugel; to make your average kugel, you have to cook the noodles—usually wide egg noodles-in a big pot of salted (or slightly oiled) water. Drain the noodles after they’re cooked and set aside in a bowl or other container. In varying amounts (according to the recipe) mix eggs, salt, pepper and other ingredients, such as pineapple or apple slices or vanilla and cinnamon, etc., and pour over the noodles, then bake. Simple, right?
Not so Kugel Yerushalmi; for this kugel, you use thin noodles or vermicelli (I used kloski; not thin enough), cook as above, drain and set aside.
Now comes the fun part: melting sugar. Sounds easy? It isn’t. You put oil and sugar (3/4 C. oil, 2/3 C. sugar, but amounts vary per recipe) into a saucepan or pot, and “cook” the sugar until brown and dissolved; until it liquefies.
Then, in the recipe I followed (from the Spice and Spirit Chabad cookbook, which I love, although this recipe left something to be desired), you are supposed to carefully pour the liquid oil/sugar mixture (key word there is “carefully”) over the noodles and thoroughly mix them. That’s when disaster struck.
I knew that when the hot sugar mixture touched the cold noodles it could clump together, so I intelligently first poured boiling water over the noodles in a colander which sat in the bowl, left it for a bit, and then emptied out the water and poured the noodles back into the bowl. Then, I smugly poured the boiling sugar liquid over the noodles in the bowl.
Have you ever carmelized your countertop? Serving spoon? Pasta ladle? Stainless steel bowl? I did.; and did a good job of it, too!
Not only did the boiling oil/sugar mixture still clump up in batches all over the noodles, but it spurted out all over the place as soon as it made contact with anything and everything that was 1 degree colder than it was: the spoon I spooned it out with; the pasta ladle that was in the stainless steel bowl. The bowl. The countertop. Oh, I said that already.
It was erev Shabbat before my brave husband was able to chisel—er, boil off—the carmelized sugar lumps, rock-hard, from everything except for the fleishig serving spoon. That is yet to be done.
I’m going back-to-the-lab to make it again a different way (I found some good recipes. Here is one) and get this right, if I have to make kugel Yerushalmi every week…I’m gonna make it again for Sukkot, and Shmini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah, and. . . Chanukah (well, maybe not for Chanukah. . . )
The kugel tasted great, though (at least, our guests said so. Do you think they were justt being polite?)
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