I can remember passing through the Hasidic neighborhood of Mea She’arim in Jerusalem as a teenager and first seeing the mahogany-brown wedges of Yerushalmi (Jerusalem) Kugel. Curious, I bought a slice of the still-warm Sabbath delicacy, and was hooked. Unlike any noodle pudding I had tasted before, this one featured a sophisticated interplay of sweetness and peppery bite, with a subtle toasty flavor thrown in for good measure.
The taste is surprisingly easy to recreate at home; all you need is a sure hand and the confidence to make a quick caramel of oil and sugar. Just when you think you’ve got your sugar dark enough, cook it a minute longer — you’ll see and taste the difference in the results. If you burn the caramel, start over — the second time’s often the charm.
Although many American adaptations call for baking the kugel in a regular casserole dish, I prefer to bake mine in a soup pot or Dutch oven with less surface area, which creates a higher, denser end result.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 16 oz package thin egg noodles
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 350F. Cook noodles according to package directions; rinse and drain well. In a heavy skillet, combine oil and sugar over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is very dark but not burnt, about 11-12 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, quickly combine drained noodles and caramelized sugar. Stir to incorporate. Let cool at least 10 minutes, then add eggs, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Grease the bottom and sides of a 6-quart soup pot or Dutch oven and pour noodle mixture into pot. Do not cover pot. Bake for 2 hours, or until kugel is very dark brown and top is crusty.
Prounounced: KOO-gull (oo as in book), Origin: Yiddish, traditional Ashkenazi casserole frequently made with egg noodles or potatoes.