Friday, September 19, 2014

Recipe of the Month: Skillet Kugel

In our house, one of our favorite staple recipes is potato kugel. The recipe for it in The Clueless Vegetarian calls for no ingredients we don't habitually have in the house (aside from fresh parsley, which is optional) and makes a generous panful. Eked out by applesauce and some frozen peas, it's a complete meal and leaves us with plenty of leftovers.

However, much as we enjoy this kugel, there are several ways in which it could be improved. First, it's a bit time-consuming; it takes a full hour to bake, plus preparation time. The preparation itself is a bit fiddly, too, calling for you to heat the oil in the baking pan for five minutes before stirring it into the potato mixture and then dumping the lot back into the pan. And speaking of oil, there's quite a lot of it in the recipe—about six tablespoons. Granted, that's for twelve servings of kugel, but still, it seemed like it ought to be possible to cut it down at least a little. And finally, the kugel bakes in a huge, flat pan, and the middle portions are never quite as good as the parts around the edges, which cook up extra brown and crispy.

So Brian did a little tinkering with the recipe and came up with a revised version that addresses all these problems. The ingredients are basically the same, but the real key difference is that the kugel is baked, not in a big glass pan, but in a cast-iron skillet, like a frittata. The resulting kugel is only about half the size of the Clueless Vegetarian version, so it doesn't feed us for as many meals, but it cooks up in half the time with only one-third as much oil, and it's crispy and delicious throughout. (It's actually a bit of a cheat to make this the Recipe of the Month for September, since Brian first came up with the idea in late August. However, the first time he made it, he did it with onion, just like the original version; when he cooked it this week, he substituted leeks from the garden, and I think that makes the dish even better. So while we first tried the recipe in late August, it was only perfected in September.)
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. 
2. In a large bowl, mix together:
About 3 medium potatoes, grated (skins and all)
1 medium onion or leek, finely chopped
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
3. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat in a cast-iron skillet or an oven-safe nonstick skillet, 9-10 inches in diameter. 
4. When the oil is hot, add in the potato mixture, flatten it down to fill the whole pan, and cook it on high for one more minute. 
5. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. 
6. Remove the pan from the oven and flip the kugel. The easiest way to do this without risk of breakage is to slide it from the pan onto a large plate, then cover it with a second plate, invert it, and slide it back into the pan. 
7. Bake another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.
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