This is how my brain works: you say Jesse’s birthday, I think carrot cake. You say Easter, I think Mom’s Roasted Lamb with Herb and Goat Cheese Topping. For Christmas, it is Mamanika’s “S” cookies, and for Hanukkah, it’s kugel and latkes.
Holidays for me are about the joy of cooking and remembering my favorite relatives through the recipes, songs, and traditions I now share with my family (and friends!). Talking on the phone with family and close friends about what we are each cooking for a special meal or for dinner that night is one of the dearest joys of life. Each year, about a week before Thanksgiving, my mother would always call and ask me to email her copies of The Recipes. She could never keep up with her boundless collection. JudysChickens.org was started as a way to store those time-tested recipes for my brothers, sons, and nieces and nephews.
So what is kugel? It is a sweet, baked noodle pudding often made with raisins and spices and served as a side dish at Jewish holiday meals.
I was fortunate to grow up in a blended family long before there was a name for families who came together after a divorce. In our case, our religious practices were blended, too. How many times did my stepfather light a menorah on a table close to my Italian grandfather’s creamy white ceramic nativity set? Kugel was one of the foods that became part of our blended holiday meals.
This is an old photo of my two youngest brothers.
Choosing a recipe for kugel is a lot like choosing one for Thanksgiving dressing (or stuffing) — people want these dishes to taste the way their mother, grandmother or great aunt prepared them. I love that. It shows how deep the connection between holidays, the people present at the table, and the foods served are connected in our memory and ultimately become the traditions we yearn for when family and friends come together.
For Mom’s kugel recipe, at first glance, and every glance really, there are a lot of calories from fat and sugar; that is the way this side dish rolls. In the end, after trying to make the recipe with fewer calories, I found I was only able to dial back the sugar by a quarter of a cup. Woohoo. I love this dish!
Yield: Serves 8-12
1 8-ounce package egg noodles (about 4½ cups cooked)
1 cup raisins
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapples with juice
½ navel orange, grate the peel and scoop up the juicy pulp
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to salt the water for cooking the noodles
1 pound (almost 2 cups) sour cream
2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar: ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1½ teaspoons sugar
Preheat oven to 350º.
Bring salted water to a boil, add the dry noodles, and cook until done. Drain. Place noodles into a 9 x 13-inch casserole or a deep-dish casserole, as I like to do. Add the melted butter and stir. Set aside.
Pour raisins into a small bowl. Grate the peel of one-half an orange over the raisins. Squeeze out the orange’s juice over the raisins. Scoop out the pulp, chop it up, and add it to the bowl of raisins. Discard the pith. Add crushed pineapples with their juice. Mix together the raisins, orange zest, fruit, and juice until each is well distributed in the bowl. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, vanilla, sugar, salt, and sour cream until well blended. Set aside.
Pour the fruit mixture over the buttered noodles and stir. Add the egg batter. Stir until well blended. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake for sixty minutes until the top is golden brown and crunchy and the eggy part is a little bubbly. If the noodle tips start to burn, cover the casserole with foil for the last ten minutes of cooking. Allow to cool for ten minutes before serving. If you want a creamier interior texture, cook it for only 50 minutes. I think the flavors are more intense when it is cooked for the full sixty minutes.
Happy Hanukkah to my family and friends!
Meanwhile, I would love a good recipe for latkes. I have never made them but sure have enjoyed eating them.
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