Kugel is a quintessentially Jewish dish that is best described as a baked pudding. The dish originated over 800 years ago in Germany and quickly became popular with Jewish families throughout Eastern Europe. There are many kinds of kugels—noodle kugels, sweet kugels, savory kugels. Slow cooking overnight kugels developed because Orthodox families were not allowed to cook during the hours of Shabbat. During the Passover holiday, noodles and sweets take a back seat to dairy-free and flour-free potato kugels, which are served alongside other holiday classics like brisket, roast chicken and matzo ball soup.
For the past several years I’ve been refining my potato kugel recipe. My goal was to create a kugel with the soul of a latke– one big, fluffy, sliceable latke that can serve a large crowd. I’ve learned, over time, to keep things simple… potatoes, eggs, onions and fat, a little starch, some salt and pepper – that’s all you need to make a great kugel. The rest is all about technique. I used to put matzo meal in my kugel to bind it, but have since switched over to potato starch (the “secret ingredient” I use to make crispy, amazing latkes). The starch makes for a lighter, fluffier texture inside… it’s also gluten free for those who have dietary restrictions. Over time I learned to preheat my baking dish, a technique I picked up from my sister-in-law. This step produces a really brown, beautiful crust on the kugel that simply can’t be obtained by oven cooking alone.
This Passover Potato Kugel is everything a kugel should be… crispy on the outside while soft, fluffy and tender inside. It’s like one enormous latke, an irresistible addition to any Seder table. I highly recommend the schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) if you can swing it. If you prefer to keep it meat-free, use olive oil and it will still be very, very tasty. Enjoy!
Note: I am always working to make my recipes better. I have improved this recipe and reposted it with new pictures. If you’re looking for the old recipe, leave a comment and let me know. I plan to post another”improved” potato kugel recipe with Sephardic spices in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
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Passover Potato Kugel
- 5 pounds russet potatoes (about 10 medium-sized potatoes)
- 2 whole large onions
- 6 eggs
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 6 tablespoons potato starch (if not serving for Passover you may substitute corn starch)
- 1/4 cup schmaltz or extra virgin olive oil, divided (schmaltz gives amazing flavor; use olive oil to keep it vegetarian)
- Place a 9x13 baking dish or pan in the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees, letting the dish heat up inside. Peel the potatoes, then use a food processor or hand grater to grate them into large shreds.
- Place the potato shreds in a large mixing bowl and cover with cold water. Let the shreds sit for a few minutes.
- Meanwhile, peel and shred the two large onions in the food processor or with a hand grater. Reserve.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt and pepper until fluffy.
- Drain the potato shreds in a colander, pushing down firmly on top of the shreds with your hands to push out the excess liquid.
- Place grated potatoes in a large bowl. Add the seasoned eggs, grated onions and potato starch to the bowl. Use your hands to mix all ingredients together until well combined.
- Take the preheated baking dish out of the oven. Quickly pour in 3 tbsp schmaltz or olive oil, then use a pastry brush to carefully spread the fat around the bottom and sides of the hot dish. Careful, don't burn yourself! The hot dish, while a bit difficult to navigate, will help to form a beautiful brown and crisp crust for the kugel.
- Carefully and quickly spread the potato mixture into an even layer in the baking dish (it should sizzle!), then drizzle remaining 1 tbsp of melted schmaltz or olive oil across the top.
- Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 60-70 minutes until the top is nicely browned all across the top. If it seems to be browning too fast (before the center is cooked), cover the kugel to keep it from over-browning. You really want it to have a nice golden crust-- at the end of cooking, if it's not quite brown enough, you can put it 6 inches below the broiler for a minute or two to evenly brown it all across the top. This kugel tastes best served hot directly from the oven. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.
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