Noodle kugel is a humble dish with an outsize name – a funny name, good for comedians and grandmas and giggling kids. Kugel is ripe with pronunciation – koo-gle or kuh-gle or whatever, just pass-me-that-stuff-now. It’s found on Jewish holiday tables and in deli case pyramids, golden twisty egg noodles cut in thick and improbably square slabs, bound by sour cream and more eggs, cottage cheese and drifting sugar. My family’s kugel is found on this 3 x 5 card.
Wearing butter stains and cinnamon age spots, the card appears each holiday in my mother’s kitchen – first under a fridge magnet (“I need to know where it is”) and eventually, on the counter. She could probably make kugel in her sleep, but it sits there, near the Pyrex, guiding the process like a curious lucky charm.
Most Jewish families pass down a kugel and inevitably a kugel family “secret,” some earnest addition like peaches or carrots or even chocolate chips. Kugel-lovers divide into “sweet” or “savory,” and at least in the matter of kugel, I stand with the sweet. I like my kugel luscious, sugared and cheesy, with distinct overtones of blintzes and dessert.
My mom received the Selectric-typed card long ago from Aunt Rose, as dear a lady as there ever was, and it was fondly known as “Aunt Rose’s Kugel” for decades, right up to the shocking family moment when it was revealed to be Aunt Ruth’s. My Grandma Trudy had three sisters – Ruth, Rose and Florence – and all four lived close, wore curlers, shopped sales and checked in by phone before ten. The four Weinstock girls – actually “LaVin,” lost at Ellis Island – were bound by love so fierce that it often excluded their husbands but extended monumentally, and quite judgmentally, to each other. At one time or another, they all baked and served this kugel.
Florence and Rose were the better cooks – my grandma never met a Cantonese menu she didn’t like – and though Rose’s dish may be as sweet as Ruth’s, there was, of course, satisfaction in setting the recipe record straight. Enjoy noodling around on your own, and repeat the motto with me – never attribute a kugel to the wrong sister.
1 lb (16 oz) wide noodles (egg noodles)
1/2 pint sour cream (8 oz)
1 lb cottage cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/4 lb (one stick) butter
1 small can crushed pineapple – optional
1/2 box raisins (golden raisins are perfect) – optional
3/4 – 1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon (my mom’s addition – Aunt Ruth is still alive, so let’s keep that between us)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat a 9 x 13 pan with baking spray.
Melt butter, and set aside to slightly cool.
Cook noodles in boiling water until done; drain and slightly cool, placing noodles in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together eggs, sour cream, cottage cheese, milk and melted butter. Toss egg mixture together with the noodles to combine, then add sugar and cinnamon, mixing to coat. If you are using the optional pineapple and raisins – and let me add it’s delicious to do so – toss them in now.
Place noodle mixture in prepared pan and bake until the top is lightly browned, 45 minutes – 1 hour. Cool until safe to handle, then cut into squares and serve warm. Leftovers freeze and reheat well.
IMPORTANT KUGEL NEWS: This recipe – and the story of the four sisters – can now be seen in “Made With Love: The Meals on Wheels Family Cookbook.” The book includes hundreds of stories and recipes from cooks like Martha Stewart, Mario Batali, and improbably enough, me. All proceeds benefit the wonderful work of Meals on Wheels. Get it here! http://mowaa.org/cookbook