Yom Kippur*, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, is a day of fasting and praying. When the longest day of the year ends (at least for those who haven’t eaten for 25 hours) family and friends gather around a casual buffet that often includes a sweet noodle kugel. Sure, there are bagels and cheeses, cucumber salads and fresh fruit. But it’s the kugel everyone goes for first.
Depending on where your family hails from, this “kugel” refers to a baked casserole of wide egg noodles cloaked in sweet buttery cheese. Think of it, loosely, as a pasta souffle or a pudding with even more calories and a crunchy crust of goodness sprinkled across the surface.
It’s not mac n’ cheese and it’s not always noodles (could be thinly sliced potatoes with caramelized onions). It might include seasonal fruit like plums or apples or it might veer off towards savory with autumn veggies and garden herbs. A kugel may be widely interpreted and regional.
It often has deep roots in a treasured family recipe and may be sacrosanct.
But not to me.
Growing up,my Mom served a traditional, Eastern European, dairy kugel that was made with full fat everything: cottage cheese, sour cream, milk and butter. As my taste buds evolved, I wanted something “other”.
My version combines creamy elements from the classic with umami rich mushrooms and parmesan cheese, fresh greens, lemon zest and herbs.By moving this kugel firmly into the savory realm, I’d like to think my Nana would pair this with a simple salad and celebrate this one, as well.
If you’re more of a sweet kugel person who loves fruit, be sure to check out this Sweet Lokshen (noodle) Kugel with Plums. For more kugel variations, head over to www.kosherlikeme.com and search, what else? Kugel.
Savory Mushroom Cheese Kugel
Author: Liz Rueven; www.kosherlikeme.com
Notes: This savory mushroom cheese kugel unites elements of a traditional dairy kugel with more complex and deeply delicious umami flavors. It is best served straight from the oven but can be reheated at 300 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until warmed throughout.
6 oz. wide egg noodles (2 cups dry measure)
6-8 dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 3/4 cup room temp water for 20-30 minutes. Reserve liquid.
4 oz. cremini mushrooms (or baby bellas), wiped clean and thinly sliced
3-4 oz. clean organic spinach
3 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3 scallions, chopped, white ends discarded
3 eggs, room temperature and beaten
4 Tbsp butter, melted and divided into half
8 oz. sour cream, full fat
8 oz. cottage cheese, 4 % fat
4 oz. cream cheese full fat (brick, not whipped), room temperature
1⁄2 tsp salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp lemon zest
1 1/3 – 1 1/2 cups of shredded parmesan for topping
Butter a 9x12 ovenproof pan generously on bottom and sides. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bring salted water to a boil in a medium size pot. Cook noodles to al dente (2 minutes less than instructions on package). Drain pasta in colander, rinse in very cold water, shake excess water off. Don’t worry if it looks like you don’t have enough noodles. You do.
After soaking dried mushrooms, remove from water and reserve liquid. Pat mushrooms dry and chop well. They will measure approximately 2 packed tablespoons.
Pour the mushroom soaking liquid into a bowl, using cheesecloth or paper towel as a filter. Measure 1⁄4 cup of filtered mushroom water and put aside.
Salt the spinach (1⁄2 teaspoon will help it to maintain its bright green color) and steam in microwave for 4-5 minutes. Cool, pat dry, chop well. It will yield only a bit but that’s ok.
In a large mixing bowl, mix eggs, melted butter, sour cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese, liquid from mushroom soak, salt and pepper. Use a stiff whisk to be sure the cream cheese is broken up and integrated.
Add spinach, scallions, parsley, shallots, both kinds of mushrooms and lemon zest to bowl. Mix gently.
Gently fold in cooked pasta.
Pour mixture into prepared pan, distributing liquid and pasta evenly.Smooth the top of kugel with the back of a spoon.
Drizzle remaining melted butter over the top of kugel and top with shredded parmesan.
Bake, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes until top is golden and tester comes out almost dry. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, cut into squares and serve warm.
*Yom Kippur begins at sunset on October 8, 2019 and ends one hour after sunset on October 9, 2019.