Archives for the month of: October, 2011

it’s just science….

 

– Lauren

The autumn is my time. I’m an early November baby, I love cool Fall afternoons, the foliage in New England is breathtaking, Football + Thanksgiving = America, and boy, do I love me some apples. The same way peaches are sweet, heady, fragrant, and moist like summer, apples are autumn incarnate: crisp, refreshing, sometimes sweet, sometimes tart, and wonderful when paired with cinnamon. Aside from just hoarding them in my refrigerator and eating them raw, I always make several batches of apple sauce throughout the fall growing season. It comes together quickly, lasts for forever in the fridge, and is a great with both sweet and savory dishes. Or, in my case, a spoon.

All delicious. EVEN THE KNIFE.

Four honeycrisp, one golden delicious, and one mutzu. Extra credit if you can tell which ones are which.

The easiest part of the whole process is choosing which apples to use: just go with what you like. I will recommend, though, that you go with at least three different types. A variety of apples will give the sauce more depth of flavor, but more importantly, it will provide texture, which is important for not ending up with a pot full of mush. Unless, of course, you like mush.

Yeah, I get my produce naked FOR REAL.

I went with 4 honeycrisp, (which ironically are tart and become very soft when cooked) , one golden delicious for sweetness and smooth texture, and one mutzu, which stays very firm, even when cooked. The apples need to be peeled and diced, minus the cores and stems. When breaking the apples down, make sure to to cut them into relatively large pieces. Small pieces will only leave you with a pot full of mush. UNLESS, OF COURSE, YOU LIKE MUSH.

Mah pot just OVERFLOWING with diced apple love.

Gonna need a bigger pot? Not at all, the apples cook down to around 50% of their original volume.

Set your pot over medium heat and add both a pinch of kosher salt and about 3/4 of a cup of apple cider or unfiltered apple juice. The liquid will initially help as a preventative measure to keep the apples from burning, and will later add flavor to the finished sauce. Don’t add too much at first, you can always add more at the end if you want to thin out your sauce. Nothing much will happen for the first 12-15 minutes, but just keep stirring the apples.

Brown and browner.

Best friends like brown sugar and cinnamon always travel together.

20 – 25 minutes in, your softer apples will essentially fall apart, creating a base for the sauce. Personally, I turned the heat off at this point, as I like to keep my sauce very chunky and rustic. You can feel free to keep it on low heat while you add the rest of the ingredients if, OF COURSE, YOU LIKE MUSH. I like to keep it light and classic with just some brown sugar and some cinnamon. Also, instead of more apple cider or juice, I go for something a bit stiffer.

apple sauce = sauced.

To those who know me, a bottle of bourbon is never a surprise.

There are multiple reasons for adding liquor to your sauce. Firstly, it adds a wonderful unique touch of flavor. Secondly, just like adding wine or vodka to a tomato sauce, the apples have alcohol-soluble flavors that can only be brought out in the presence of booze. Thirdly, I enjoy the “sauce” wordplay, but that’s not really important. Bourbon is always my liquor of choice, but applejack, a liquor distilled from the fruit themselves and indeed just as American as bourbon, makes sense as well. I add the liquor just after I turned off the heat, as I want the bite to stay in my sauce, but feel free to add it earlier if you want the strength to cook out.

SAWCE.

It doesn't look done, you say? Fuck you, Mama Bear, I'm Goldilocks. It's just right.

The sauce is essentially finished, but you can feel free to smooth out the sauce with a masher for smoother, but still rustic texture. Or, you can use a stick blender if, OF COURSE, YOU LIKE MUSH. I’ll keep it just the way it is, thank you. The pot and the heat did enough for me.

Ingredients

  • Roughly 2.5 pounds of apples, divided among various types
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup of apple cider or unfiltered apple juice, plus more if desired
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (or applejack, if preferred)

Procedure

  1. Peel the apples. They do not need to be perfect, but most of the skin needs to be removed.
  2. Chop the apples into relatively large, even pieces.
  3. Cook over medium heat in a medium or large pot with the cider or juice (and bourbon, if a mellow flavor is desired). Add salt and stir every few minutes until softer apples begin to break down, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and bourbon (if still needed) and stir well. Turn off the heat.
  5. Finish my mashing or blending if a smoother texture is desired. If not, enjoy as is.

– Max.

To the uninitiated, a lokshen kugel (sweet noodle kugel, or casserole) presents many stumbling blocks. The parts list can seem hauntingly disparate, or at the very least, quite heavy on fat/sugar/calories. The finished product can be confusing, or, as one of my friends said when presented with a piece to try, “I don’t trust it. It’s sweet pasta.” However, a righteous kugel, free of canned and processed fruits and other 1960s remnants, is (for me, at least) a rich, wonderful gestalt and a comforting reminder of the Jewish specialities of my childhood. I’ve made many a kugel over the years, and I’ve tailored my own recipe to produce a kugel that is not overly sweet, firm but not dry, and rich, but not overwhelmingly heavy. Note #1: I made a double batch for this post, as I had many mouths to feed. That will explain the over-abundance of ingredients in my photos.

The line up, bitches.

It's not so much a sweet side dish as it is dessert you eat with your dinner. Camera shy: the eggs and the egg noodles

First off, I will admit that a proper kugel is not a low-calorie affair. However, I’ve used both the regular and light versions of cream cheese and sour cream, and I can put my hand on my non-failing heart and say that the light products will yield as luscious a final dish as the regular stuff, and with at least 1/3 less fat. With all of the sugar and eggs that go in, nothing will be missed. I promise.

Some brands only give you 12 ounces in a bag. Those egg noodles are for suckers.

"Pennsylvania Dutch" is actually appropriate, as kugels are of German/Polish Ashkenzai extraction. Yay for cultural and historical accuracy!

First step to success is to not overcook the egg noodles. They are no where close to as firm and chewy as regular dried semolina pasta and if you’re not careful, they will turn to mush in a flash. Make sure to give them a lot of water to boil in, and make sure to add just a bit of salt. Start checking the noodles after about 3 minutes. You want them to be relatively firm, as they will spend about 45 minutes in the oven and will certainly cook a bit more during that time. Note #2: My mother decided to help me with this kugel. Because of this, she cracked all of the eggs into the work bowl of the stand mixer BEFORE I could cream the dairy and the eggs together.
OFFENSIVE EGGS.

Thanks for nothing, Mom.

To be honest, it was not a catastrophe, but it did not allow the batter (or really, custard, as this is actually a noodle custard pudding casserole) to be as smooth as it should have been. The end product was still delicious and no one knew a goddamn thing. When you make it, though, wait to mix the eggs in until after the dairy and sugar have been thoroughly mixed. I just mixed the eggs together and threw in the rest of the ingredients, no real harm done.

It's like something went horribly wrong with your breakfast.

Does it look delicious yet? Huh? Yeah? ...anyone?

 

Once the custard / batter has come together, it comes time for some choices. As I mentioned above, some classic kugel recipes will call for various canned and processed fruits drowning in a heavy syrup, but I have never been a proponent of such additions. This being a traditionally fall season dish, I like diced apples, and being a good New England boy, I have a local orchard not 10 minutes away for whenever my harvest heart desires les pommes délicieuse. I also like raisins, but only golden raisins, as they have a more mild flavor than their black brethren. Feel free to break with tradition and add whatever fresh or dried fruits you feel would work well, but just remember to keep the pieces small. After mixing in your fruits, throw the egg noodles in a baking dish and mix thoroughly!

Well? DOES IT LOOK YUMMY YET?!

Some people just bake their kugel as-is, but we can definitely make this better with something on top.

The special finishing touch is really my favorite part of my kugel. There are various recipes for a topping, from simply sprinkling with sugar to adding crumbled corn flakes, but mine is both deceptively simple and super-extra delicious. It is a one-to-one combination of graham cracker crumbs and light brown sugar, mixed with some melted butter. Hopefully you’ll have some whole graham crackers (on, in my case, a pie crust) that you can crush yourself. The only trick with is is to not smash the graham too fine. You want irregular pieces, from smooth crumb to large chunks.

FUCKING NOTICE MY TEXTURE!

Notice the wonderful various in texture!

Next comes the brown sugar, and I find that a fork works the best to mix everything together without making big clumps. After drizzling in the melted butter, make sure to mix very well, as you want there to be no real sign of excess moisture in the bowl. The final product should look a lot like wet sand.

Clear bowl on a wooden table? I'm like freaking out right now, man.

Much more delicious than the sand you used to eat at the playground.

Use your hands to sprinkle the topping over the kugel, but don’t pack it down. You can spread it gently to make sure you have even coverage, but if you press down, the topping won’t get a chance to brown as well. And remember, brown means flavor. Bake at 350 degrees. A knife should be mostly dry when you pierce the middle of the casserole, but not completely. All dry = dry kugel = frowny face.

Worth the calories.

It finally looks good. And it smells better than it looks.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound bag of egg noodles, wide / large cut
  • 12 ounces (1.5 standard square packages) light cream cheese
  • 1 cup light sour cream
  • 5 whole eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 apple, diced into small cubes (I prefer something tart like a granny smith or a honeycrisp)
  • About 1/2 cup of golden raisins (or other dried fruit)

For the topping:

  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs  from a box, from whole crackers, or a pie shell)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, light or dark
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter, melted
    • Mix the crumbs and the brown sugar together with a fork. Drizzle on the melted butter, and mix well again. The final product should resemble wet sand and be relatively dry.

Procedure

  1. Boil noodles in lightly salted water, careful not to overcook. Egg noodles will cook much faster than standard pasta, so check after about 3 minutes.
  2. Beat cream cheese, sour cream, and sugar together in mixing bowl on medium speed for about a minute.
  3. Beat in the eggs on slow speed, one at a time.
  4. Add cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and mix well.
  5. Combine with apple and raisins and add to noodles.
  6. Mix well, place into baking dish that has been buttered or sprayed with non-stick.
  7. Top with graham mixture.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes (closer to an hour if you’re doing a double-batch like me.)

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur may be over, but why should that mean no more kugel? It’s like turkey and cranberry sauce – so beloved, but only once a year. Fuck that, make a holiday meal whenever you want to have one. Rejoice and celebrate! Get festive just because. Impress friends, loved ones, bitches, and/or hoes.

L’chaim.

– Max.

%d bloggers like this: