Kugel Recipe from the Old Country Step by Step with Photos

Kugel Golden Fried to Perfection

Fresh from the skillet, fried to perfection!
Fresh from the skillet, fried to perfection! | Source

Jewish Comfort Food

Every ethnic group has comfort foods. These familiar dishes we enjoy at home are solid, filling, tasty, and full of love. Comfort foods are not too complicated or expensive to make. And I suspect that these meals have been made for so many generations, that cravings for them are in our genetic code!

For those picturing these foods you’ve eaten since you were knee-high to a grasshopper, you may concede that some do not meet the current heart-healthy nutritional guidelines. But, man does not live by blueberry-cranberry-soy infused-bran muffins alone. We need to recognize that in addition to supplying cultural familiarity and gobs of love (the secret ingredient added during preparation), comfort foods meet another need. They meet the basic emotional need for salt and grease.

(And hey – how can our body use those fat-soluble vitamins if we don’t ingest a little fat?)

Ku-what?

There are two main categories of kugel. (Pronunciations vary. It can be said “COO-gull” or “KUG- gull” or “KIG- gull” or with the first syllable having the same vowel sound as in the word “look” or “put.”) It is a dish of noodles and eggs cooked by baking or frying. One is sweet and contains white sugar and fruit. The other is the basic staple of noodles, egg, salt, and oil. The latter are sometimes referred to as "savory kugels." However, this one is not full of herbs that I associate with the word savory. It just isn't sweet. Also, it is FRIED, not baked.

Jewish Great-Grandmother

Great Grandma Ludmilla from Bohemia
Great Grandma Ludmilla from Bohemia | Source

Learning from a Master

The photo to the right is my Great-Grandmother Ludmilla (don’t you just love that name?). I am certain that kugel was in her repertoire of dishes. But she didn’t teach me, because she passed on long before I was born. I wish I had known her, though, because family folklore has it that she was quite a formidable woman, raising a family of six children despite having a crippled leg from falling down a well in the old country.

However, I had the extremely good fortune to learn at the elbow of a Maiven who prepared THIS VERY KUGEL every Friday night, EVERY Sabbath, EVERY week. For this special night, she made always the same meal: half a grapefruit, applesauce, roast chicken, peas, and kugel. Of course, she learned how to make it from her mother, who learned from her mother, who learned it from the preceding generations of mothers. Her mother was born in Russia. She was among the many whose real name was so un-pronounceable to the immigration agents at Ellis Island that she was suddenly given a new surname as part of the privilege of entering the land of opportunity. While she couldn’t keep her name, her KUGEL recipe made it to the new world intact.

Kugel Ingredients

The Basic Four
The Basic Four | Source

Ingredients and utensils

The beauty lies in the simplicity. Just 4 ingredients:

Ingredients:

MEDIUM-sized egg noodles, about 8 ounces -> these are made from white flour and are ¼ to 1/3 inch wide. If purchasing a 16-oz bag, use half the bag.

2 large eggs

Vegetable oil -> don’t use olive if it has a discernable olive-y flavor. I go with Generic Vegetable Oil or Corn Oil.

Table salt -> the white stuff, conventional sized grains. Not fancy sea salt.

Utensils for Cooking Kugel

Make sure the colander can handle boiling water.
Make sure the colander can handle boiling water. | Source

Utensils:

Large pot -> about 4 quarts (or 4 liters)

Large spoon for stirring in the pot

Large, heat-safe colander

2 spatulas

A dinner-sized plate

Large frying pan -> about 9 to 11 inches diameter

A watch or clock with a second hand

Sharp knife, such as a steak knife

Paper towels

Fill the pot about 2/3 full with water. Place the colander in a clean empty sink. Start heating the pot of water and bring it to a full rolling boil. Have the watch or clock where you can see it. When there are many bubbles breaking the surface, hold the bag of noodles and get ready. You must time how long the noodles cook by the second, give or take ten seconds. Pour them in quickly and watch the clock. They can cook for only two minutes - 120 seconds. That is the critical step. If the noodles cook longer, they get too soft to stick together and the kugel falls apart.

At the end of the 120 seconds, take the pot from the stove and pour the noodles into the colander. Immediately rinse them with cold tap water to stop the cooking.

You can place your frying pan on the hot burner and turn it to a very low heat. Put in vegetable oil - less than 1/4 inch.

Now you can use that same large pot to do mixing. Shake excess water from the colander and pour the noodles back into the pot. Add the two eggs and stir to mix thoroughly. Sprinkle in a little salt - about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon. Stir to mix.

Now turn up the heat under the frying pan to Medium High. Not the highest setting. Test its readiness by getting a tiny bit of water on a finger and flicking a drop of water into the pan. Stand back when doing this. If the water sizzles on impact, the pan is hot enough.

Quickly pour the noodle mixture into the pan. Use the spoon to spread it out and flatten it.

Kugel Frying in Skillet

Noodle mixture poured into pre-heated oil in frying pan.
Noodle mixture poured into pre-heated oil in frying pan. | Source

As it cooks, use the sharp knife to go around the circumference of the pan to lift the noodles away from the side. Do it just enough to keep it from sticking. This also allows vegetable oil to go up the sides which further prevents sticking. Your goal is to have the kugel's bottom get a golden brown crust. This part should take from 5 to 10 minutes. After 5 minutes, start to check the bottom by lifting the kugel up with a spatula.

Using a large spatula to get under the half-cooked kugel.  The underside is toasty brown.
Using a large spatula to get under the half-cooked kugel. The underside is toasty brown. | Source

When the kugel's underside is crisp and medium-brown, you must turn it to cook the top side.

I recommend the method shown in the pictures following. Use the two large spatulas to tightly hold the kugel, top and bottom. Staying over the frying pan, lift and turn the kugel. Then allow it to slide back into the frying pan upside-down. Obviously, the bottom must be sufficiently cooked together before you do this.

[The way my teacher did the flip was to tightly hold a dinner plate on the frying pan, then flip them both upside-down so that the plate and kugel were at the bottom of the stack. She then replaced the pan on the burner and slid the kugel from the plate into the pan with the cooked side now up. --This did not work for me. I ended up with oil dripping all over creation.]

The 2-Spatula Kugel Flipping Technique

Using a spatula underneath and on top...
Using a spatula underneath and on top... | Source
to carefully lift and turn the kugel upside-down...
to carefully lift and turn the kugel upside-down... | Source
keeping any oil drippings right over the frying pan...
keeping any oil drippings right over the frying pan... | Source
phew!
phew! | Source

Successful Kugel Flip

I mean, "Ta-da!"
I mean, "Ta-da!" | Source

Second Side Cooking

At this point, taste buds are being tantalized by the aroma of Jewish love, disguised as a wonderfully fried noodle pudding. Watch the cooking of the second side. It usually goes a little faster than the first side. Again, you use the knife to do a little lifting and checking on the progress of the bottom. When it is finally done, use the spatula to lift it onto a plate. If you want to remove some of the oil, you can prepare that plate with a few layers of paper towel. Also, you may gently pat the top to remove grease. Then put your kugel on a serving plate and cut into pie-shaped wedges.

Kugel is Done Cooking

Source

A happy belly

I could wax poetic on how this dish is as glorious as the sunrise, warm as the beach on a perfect summer day, and other glowing analogies. Let's just say that this is a very good comfort food, worthy of trying. And when you do it right, your family may rise up and praise you, calling you an accomplished cook, a person of valor. :)

Kugel on Serving Plate

Source

Photos and text copyright 2008 Maren E. Morgan

For Papa and Mama, a little something

"OY VEY" mugs and other light-hearted items available at the web store KATZ MIT CHUTZPAH.  Click on blue link below.  Shalom.
"OY VEY" mugs and other light-hearted items available at the web store KATZ MIT CHUTZPAH. Click on blue link below. Shalom.

Maren Morgan loves cooking and especially loves eating! She thanks her friend, Bruce Thomson, for assisting with some of the photos. If you run into any speed bumps trying this recipe, please feel free to contact her.

PS - I am amused at whatever nebbish decided to insert bacon ads into this Hub!

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Comments 24 comments

T.S.T. 8 years ago

Getting hungry just reading about kugel - too bad I had a half of one last night for dinner!


JerseyGirl profile image

JerseyGirl 8 years ago from Jersey Shore

Oh My Goodness ME! I never did quite know or understand the backround of a Kugel; although growing up in Brooklyn, New York - and having Mom from Germany, Grandma from Russia, Grandpa from Poland - and yes, then MY Dad from Rome - we seemed to hear alot about this famous food.

When I grew up, I did remember eating it, and quite often, but could never figure out how it was made. Mom didn't elaborate much on it; as we were into our own strange Russian and Italian cuisine.

I cannot believe that you posted this hub. This is what I WILL BE making for dinner tomorrow. Thank you so much. Great info, and I LOVED the photos.


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 8 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Jersey Girl, thank you so very much. Although most of the steps to making it are so very simple, there are the two little tricks - the 120 seconds and how to flip it ---- that a cook needs to know. I failed in making this kugel when I just had a recipe on paper. Part of that was the vague description to cook the noodles "just a little bit." I timed my teacher when she made kugel and discovered the 120 second rule. I also think this is a process you need to see if you have never made it, thus all the photos. It was a lot of fun to plan and to do. I am glad you will try it!


garvik315 profile image

garvik315 8 years ago from Jacksonville Area, Florida, USA

GREAT - GREAT - GREAT RECIPE!

WOULD ALSO TRY ADDING A LITTLE CHEESE & HERBS - BETTER EVEN STILL!


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 8 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

I agree with the potential for additions. I felt I had to publish the "original." But, I am going to try a few variations, such as using egg products that are better for cholesterol watchers and perhaps chopped onions. Herbs sound great. I am not sure how cheese would behave in a frying pan situation. Would it just harden on the sides and bottom like cement or would it mix and melt nicely? Let me know when you try it.


Kat07 profile image

Kat07 8 years ago from Tampa

This sounds amazing, interesting - will try it very soon!!!


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 8 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thanks, Kat. There are many recipes out there for baked kugels which are also sweet, with cream cheese and fruits. But this, to me, is the classic.


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 8 years ago from Pennsylvania Author


Diane C 8 years ago

Great article and photos!


Diane C 8 years ago

Great article and photos!


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 8 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thanks! Let me know when you try it. :)


Kat07 profile image

Kat07 8 years ago from Tampa

Maren - I made the kugel tonight! My husband likes spices, so I added a little garlic powder, minced onion and ground black pepper along with a dash of shredded parm. cheese. We think it would even be good with spinach in it!

I can't wait to try making the other kinds of kugel!


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 8 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Super! Good food is meant to be shared! So, it sounds like a little bit of cheese works. Thanks for your feedback. :)


Yid.Man 8 years ago

As a Sephardic Jew, kugel was a slight oddity to me when i first tried it. I have however made peace with it (haha) and do enjoy various variaties of it.


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 8 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Hi YidMan. Please explain why it was an oddity? But, I am glad you and kugel came to "an understanding." :)


Roberta Thomson-Feder 8 years ago

Well, here it is, 1:35 am on 3/26/08, and I finally took the time to read your story and recipe. Now I'm hungry! I've had kugel before but never knew how to make it. I'll try it soon!


Michele S 8 years ago

I've made the sweet version of kugel (which I love) in the past but have never tried the savory type. I will give it a try, perhaps with some of the additions that have been suggested.


ChaiRachelRuth profile image

ChaiRachelRuth 7 years ago

My Mom used to make kugel this way. I used to watch her all the time. However, the flipping used to intimidate me. She used your teacher's method with the plate on top of the pan. It came out perfect every time. It was a staple at EVERY holiday including Thanksgiving. I've been making sweet dairy kugels following the Joy of Cooking recipe, baking instead of frying. I once asked my Mom why she made kugels on top of the stove. Her response was, "because my mother did it that way.'

Thanks for the recipe and for bringing back a wonderful, warm, comfort food memory.


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 7 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

ChairRachelRuth,

Thank you for sharing that story with me. I can just imagine the scene in the kitchen of your childhood. I am glad it brought back warm memories.


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 5 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Hello All. I hope you know that many of the ads are not in my control. The "free bacon" ad is really hilarious as a placement for a Jewish recipe hub.


Wanda Edwards 4 years ago

I am from rural Canada and our amateur theatre group is going to be doing "Crossing Delancy" by Susan Sandler for our spring production. I have been given the role of Bubbie who is described as a fiesty, sharp-witted woman in her eighties, who immigrated to the United States as a young girl and has lived ever since in the shrinking community of New York City known as the Lower east side. I've never been to New York, nor have I experienced the Jewish or Russian cultures. I went online to find out first, what a Kugel was and second, to see if I can find out what the "Kugel Song" that I will need to perform sounds like. The Kugel recipe you've provided sounds delicious and I can't wait to try it. You don't perhaps know the "Kugel Song" do you?


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

I know the Dreidel Song, but not the Kugel song. I will hunt around for you. Do you have a synagogue in your town? I suggest you ask the rabbi.


buildyourhouses 3 years ago from UK

hi its really nice tips and post, by seeing the pic, ohh its mouthwatering..


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 3 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thanks, buildyourhouses. I am looking forward to learning about construction from you!

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