This is the first recipe in Crispianity: a column devoted to all foods crispy and crunchy, two of the most underappreciated attributes of a great dish. Author Adeena Sussman is a food writer and recipe developer, pairing here with her friend, photographer Evan Sung. Sussman’s most recent cookbook, co-authored with Lee Brian Schrager, is Fried and True: More Than 50 Recipes for America’s Best Fried Chicken and Sides.

I’ve been obsessed with Jerusalem Kugel, or Kugel Yerushalmi as it’s known in Hebrew, ever since I spent a gap year between high school and college in Israel, where takeout-food proprietors lay out a staggering spread of food to sell for Sabbath meals. Unlike the kugels most of us are familiar with from Rosh Hashanah meals or Yom Kippur breakfasts, this Jerusalem Kugel packs a wallop of heat thanks to a pile of black pepper. The surprising level of spice — especially for an Eastern European dish — creeps up on the palate, serving as an organizing principle for a mellow sweetness that comes from a simple caramel you make at home.

I wanted to add more texture to the crust, since a textural edge almost always enhances a soft interior. Beginning to cook the kugel on the stovetop by frying in a bit of oil helps develop a chewy-crunchy edge that further develops once the kugel, inverted after baking, cools in your kitchen.