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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Channeling my Inner Martha (and a recipe for Perfected Savory Noodle Kugel)

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About a week and a half ago I hosted the entree course for a Progressive Dinner. I agreed to do this back in the spring. The entire Progressive Dinner was auctioned off at our school's Spring Gala. Four couples signed up for our four course meal.

I knew what I'd make from the get go; Jewish Brisket and Noodle Kugel. The Brisket is great for entertaining because it is at its best when made the night before and then reheated to serve. And the Kugel is also a good make-ahead dish. You can assemble it earlier in the day and then just heat it up about 1/2 hour before the guests arrive.

As the night approached, though, I found myself with two issues. 1. I didn't have a great Kugel recipe, and 2. I had no idea how to decorate my house and table. For Issue #2, I decided to turn to Facebook. I have some very creative friends, so I knew someone would be able to help. Sure enough, Sea and Dwyer chimed in with ideas (and even a picture in the case of Sea) and I managed to create something pretty nice.

For the Kugel, I was kind of baffled. The recipe I have is from Joan Nathan, who is THE ultimate resource when it comes to traditional Jewish cooking. However, the one time I tried to make that Kugel, it was kind of blah. I should mention at this point that I only make (and eat) savory Kugel. Sweet Noodle Kugel is the more common variety, but I personally hate it. First, it contains raisins, which I don't do. Second, my mom always made the savory kind, so that's how I roll.

When I realized I was having a "Kugel Krisis" (sorry), I called my mom. I had some vague memory of a Kugel that used onion soup mix, which wasn't the route I wanted to go, but in order to figure out my own recipe, I wanted to capture the ingredients that created the Kugel flavors of my youth. My mom had no clue what recipe she used way back in my youth, but she was happy to brainstorm with me. We decided that the Joan Nathan recipe could be altered to have more oomph. The recipe calls for raw minced onion, and while that adds a little bit of tang, it doesn't add much savory goodness, so we added some carmelized onion as well. We also upped the hot sauce factor. The verdict? AMAZING. My altered recipe is below, with major props to Joan Nathan for providing such a lovely starting point, and my mom for being a great sounding board.

Perfected Savory Noodle Kugel

16 oz. bag of large egg noodles
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, sliced in thin half circles
2 cups cottage cheese (large curd is best here, if your store carries it)
Tabasco sauce to taste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups sour cream
1 onion, finely minced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a large lasagna sized pan (I used a Pyrex). Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. As the noodles cook, heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the butter and oil and the thinly sliced onion. Reduce heat to low and cook the onion, stirring frequently, until carmelized. This can take up to half an hour. You want them nice and brown and sweet and delicious. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine the onions and noodles in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Take a taste. It should already be delicious. If it seems bland, add more soy or Tabasco until it is awesome.

Cook uncovered until the top gets a little bit brown and crispy. Enjoy! This will serve 8-12 guests, and is terrific reheated the next day.

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