Judy, a longtime reader who lives in the Philadelphia area, sent me a favorite recipe for her grandmother's noodle kugel, a casserole my own grandmother used to make. I loved the note Judy wrote with the recipe, and she graciously allowed me to share it, and the recipe, with you. In the year of the Thanksgiving and Chanukah convergence, this noodle dish is a perfect addition to the holiday table, no matter which holiday you're celebrating this week:
My grandmother Sophie, who lived to be 98 years old, was an amazing cook. She spent a number of years in the 1930s and 1940s running the kitchen of a "resort" for union workers, and she never really adjusted her recipes to cook for just a few people (a tradition I seem to have continued). Grandma didn't wrote down her recipes, so I would cook with her and write down the ingredients and measurements as best I could.
This recipe is for Sophie's kugel, which is beloved in my family. I kept her words in the directions, and I always feel her here with me when I make it. We celebrate Christmas and Chanukah in our family, but I grew up celebrating Chanukah. In the early years of cooking our family Christmas dinner, making foods that didn't yet feel traditional, I had a flash of inspiration. Meet our "Christmas Kugel" -- my grandmother's recipe in a new context. She would have loved it.
Like my grandmother, I alter it to fit the circumstances; if it's for a larger group, I often use 3/4 pound of egg noodles and the entire 16-ounce container of cottage cheese. Sometimes I bake it for about 20 minutes the night before, then refrigerate it and bake it the rest of the way the next day. Make sure that some of the noodles are golden brown and slightly crisped on top.
Sophie's kugel (noodle casserole)
1/2 lb egg noodles
12 oz small-curd cottage cheese (I used fat-free)
2 tsp cream cheese (optional) (Judy always includes it, and I did, too)
1/4 lb butter (one stick)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional) (Judy adds 1 tsp, and so did I)
4 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup orange juice
3/8 cup sugar (I used 1/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt to taste (I used 1/8 tsp)
(Lydia's note: I've added a few directions in italics, for clarification. The rest of the recipe is Sophie's, in her own words.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cook noodles (according to package directions) and wash in cold water (so they don’t lump). Do not overcook.
(Transfer the cooked, drained noodles to a large mixing bowl.)
Grease pan well with some of the butter -- about 1 oz. (I used the butter left on the wrapper to grease a 12-cup square casserole dish, and added the full 4 ounces of butter into the kugel.)
Melt butter and put into the noodles first thing.
Beat eggs well.
Mix in (the bowl with the noodles) all the ingredients except the eggs.
Add eggs. (It will look watery, but don’t be afraid -- it absorbs.) (Pour the mixture into the buttered casserole dish.)
Bake (uncovered) for 45 minutes to 1 hour. (I baked for 55 minutes, until there were some crispy browned bits on top.)
Let sit for 10 minutes, then serve hot or at room temperature.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Sour cream noodle bake, from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Tuna noodle casserole, from Pinch My Salt
Chicken noodle casserole, from The Cutting Edge of Ordinary
Creamy noodle kugel, from The Shiksa in the Kitchen
Noodle and cottage cheese bake, from Eating Out Loud!
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