I like my butter with a side of noodles

Welcome to the new GTJ blog column on Jewish cooking! I came to GTJ hoping to contribute to the site in some way, and thanks to GTJ’s blind trust in me, I now have the joy of writing a bi-weekly post on learning to cook traditional Jewish food [Editor’s note: Check for this column every other Monday]. What experience and skills do I bring to this endeavor? Not very much. Thus, I’m hoping that this blog will force me — and hopefully encourage some of you — to experiment with Jewish cooking.

Going along with the GTJ theme of serving as an aggregator, my plan is to pull recipes from various websites and rank the recipes based on a range of critical characteristics: prep time, ease, cook time, cost, and taste.

Since there were no Jewish holidays and subsequent food staples to guide my first post, I decided to go with a classic — kugel. I found an intriguing recipe for sweet kugel via the Boston Globe, which in 2008 highlighted a kugel recipe that had won first prize at the — wait for it — “Kugle Kukh-Off” in LA (see recipe below).

One disclaimer — you should not attempt this recipe if you are weight conscious. The first task required dropping two and a half sticks of butter into a bowl with an entire block of cream cheese, a fatty whipped concoction that is quickly joined by a massive dollop (one cup) of sour cream and five eggs. As one of my cooking partners exclaimed, the final consistency resembled dough, but in fact was simply a large mass of fat. Mmmmm. Actually, while I was shopping for the ingredients and the heart attack-inducing products piled up in my shopping cart, I considered going for the reduced fat counterparts. However, I quickly decided that my measly attempt to slim down the final product would be a disservice to the award-winning recipe and would likely result in a less tasty kugel.

So how does the whole experience rank? On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “bad” and 5 being “good”:

Prep time: 5

The only preparation required boiling the egg noodles, which I cooked while mixing up the various ingredients, making the noodle-cooking process (which is ususally painfully long) fly by.

Overall ease: 4.5

This was a pretty easy recipe with minimal room for error. One potential error? I almost purchased cottage cheese instead of sour cream. Almost oops.

Cook time: 3.5

45-50 minutes to cook plus 10 minutes to cool. It was longer than I wanted to wait for some delicious kugel, so I can’t give this recipe a 5. Also, nothing is more frustrating than waiting for a recipe to “cool” before you can dig in. However, waiting was critical, as the dish comes out quite soft at first and needs to solidify before being cut.

Cost: 5

All the ingredients came to exactly $10. If I had splurged for the mixer (which I almost did to maintain the integrity of the recipe), it would have boosted up the price three fold.

Taste: 4.75

This dish was absolutely delicious. I’ve tried my fair share of sweet kugel and this is one of the best. The key factor? Using honey instead of sugar. Now I’ve never uttered the phrase, “this is too sweet,” but my awesome taste-testers both commented that this kugel was sweet enough without reaching cloying, toothache proportions. The only thing this recipe needed for a perfect 5 was some crunchy texture. If I could do this dish over, I would leave it in for longer than 45 minutes to allow the kugel to form a super crunchy top layer.

I’d love to hear your thoughts as I develop this column, so let me know if you have food ideas or recipes you’d like me to try.

Happy noshing!
Noodle Kugel

Butter (for the dish)

Salt, to taste

16 ounces medium egg noodles

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup honey

5 eggs

1 cup sour cream

Kugel in Progress

Set the oven at 350. Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the noodles according to package instructions until they are tender. Drain them and rinse with cold water. Spread them evenly in the baking dish. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese. (I actually did not have a mixer. but luckily, the consistency of all the ingredients is smooth enough to mix with a rubber spatula if both the butter and the cream cheese are at room temperature/warm.) Beat in the honey, followed by the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the sour cream. The mixture should be thick and creamy. Pour it over the noodles. Bake the kugel for 45 to 60 minutes or until it is set and golden brown. Let the kugel sit for 10 minutes. Cut into squares.