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.
- 2 (12-ounce) packages thin egg noodles
- 2/3 cup plus 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the noodles according to package directions; drain well, toss with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to prevent sticking, return to the pot, and reserve.
- In a medium saucepan combine the 2/3 cup oil with the sugar and cook over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally, making sure to watch for any signs of burning.
- This will not be like a regular caramel; parts will turn very dark brown, and it is likely that around the edges the sugar will take a while to dissolve. Most likely, the sugar and the oil will never fully unify. It will look sort of like an amorphous wave of very dark brown soft-ball-stage candy, separated from a translucent oil slick. But that’s OK. The darker the darker the caramel, the darker the kugel.
- Go ahead and dump the caramel into the noodles and stir, noticing how parts of the caramel harden immediately.
- Do not freak out; simply turn the flame onto medium-low and warm the noodles, stirring, until the caramel dissolves, about 10-12 minutes.
- Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Stir in the eggs, pepper and salt. In a 5 or 6-quart stockpot, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons oil until very hot but not smoking.
- Add the egg-noodle mixture; do not stir, and let it cook on the stovetop, noting how the edges begin to darken, for 7-8 minutes.
- Transfer to the oven and bake until the top is slightly hardened, for about 1 hour.
- Cool for 30 minutes, invert onto a serving platter, and either serve immediately or allow to cool completely. If you wait, the outer shell of the kugel will be chewy-crunchy.
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