My grandmother made a potato kugel that I can still taste — maybe because of the copious amounts of gribenes and chicken fat she used in the mix. Whatever it was, the kugel was delicious, and though I tried for years to replicate the crispy edges and the creamy middle, without the addition of the now-verboten fat the taste was never the same.
What would Pesach be without some kind of kugel or stuffing or potato addition to the meal? Recently, I tasted an amazing potato kugel from Pomegranate in Brooklyn. They actually bake their potato kugel for 24 hours. I don’t have the patience for that and I need the oven space. But the creaminess and delicious, smoky flavor was unforgettable.
Regular noodles are out, Pesach noodles are in, matzah farfel is in, quinoa is in and matzah crackers are in. GF versions of most of these are also in for the holiday. I discovered the hard way that if a cook is not careful, a matzah farfel kugel can resemble cement more than a side dish (yes, I’ve had firsthand knowledge on that one). The right mix of veggies, eggs and chicken soup can rescue the heavy matzah kugel and transform it into a delicious side dish. Hint — the more veggies the better.
GF crackers can make a delicious base for a vegetable filled kugel which can be eaten by everyone. I guarantee that no one will complain about the GF factor!
Substitute quinoa for a healthy and delicious side dish that is totally matzah-free.
A fancy kugel or stuffing casserole can be magnificent, but even simply roasted potatoes can look beautiful and taste delicious. (It is also a very simple dish to make amid more complicated ones on our the Pesach menu.)
Take your pick — some stuffing, a kugel, potatoes, or all of them — and you will thrill your guests and have great side dishes to enhance your glorious seders.
Onion, Leek, Artichoke and Anything-Else-You-Want Kugel (Meat or Pareve) (Gebrochts)
1 box matzah farfel, or 2 to 3 boxes matzah crackers, or 3 to 5 boxes GF crackers
3 cups chicken soup or vegetable broth, heated to simmering
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 to 4 large onions, diced
6 to 8 medium leeks, rinsed well and thinly sliced
1 to 2 Tbsp. freshly snipped chives
2 boxes, mushrooms, washed and sliced
OPTIONAL: 1 to 2 cups shredded carrots
2 to 4 (14 oz) cans or 2 to 4 packages frozen artichoke bottoms, drained or thawed, coarsely chopped or just cut in half
8 to 10 extra-large eggs
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
OPTIONAL: 1 to 2 tsp. dill, thyme, any other herbs and spices you like
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and place 1/3 cup of vegetable oil in the bottom of an 11x15, a deep lasagna type 9X13 pan, or 2 regular 9x13 pans. Brush the oil generously over the bottom and up the sides of the pan(s). Set aside.
Process the crackers in a food processor until small pieces form. Pour into a very large bowl. Set aside. Heat the broth in a saucepan until it begins to simmer. Pour the hot chicken broth over the crumbs or farfel, mix well, cover the bowl lightly with foil, and set aside.
Heat a large skillet and add half the remaining olive oil. Add the onions and sauté until golden, adding more oil if needed. Add the leeks and heat until the leeks are softened and the lightly golden. The onions will get a bit darker. Total time is about 20 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and cook until the liquid has been reabsorbed and the mushrooms begin to turn golden. Add the carrots and artichokes and heat through, about 3 to 6 minutes. Add the chives and other herbs and mix well. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Break 8 of the eggs into a large bowl and whisk until uniformly blended. If the mixture is still very stiff, add the other 2 eggs and/or some more chicken broth. Pour into the matzah farfel and mix well. Add the vegetables to the matzah farfel and mix well. Season generously with salt and pepper and pour into the prepared pan(s). Drizzle with the remaining oil.
Bake for about 50 to 75 minutes, until golden brown on top. Serves 10 to 14.
Pan Fried Potato Kugel (Pareve)
This recipe produces an extra crispy crust and a very smooth center. This takes a little longer to cook and must be watched, but the results are worth the wait. You can keep it warm in a 250-degree oven.
2 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 to 4 large yellow onions, chopped
3 to 4 shallots, shredded
6 medium russet potatoes, peeled, shredded with medium blade of a food processor
OPTIONAL: 2 carrots, shredded
2 extra-large eggs
1 tsp. Passover baking powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
Safflower oil for frying
Fill a large bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes. Grate the potatoes and place them in the ice water. Set aside. Shred the carrots and place in a small bowl. Set aside.
Change the food processor blade to the “s” blade and process the garlic until finely minced, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the onions and chop them until finely chopped, but not watery.
Drain the potatoes and roll in a clean dishtowel to absorb any excess water. Place in a large bowl and toss with the onions, garlic and shallots, and carrots, if using. Add the eggs, baking powder salt and pepper and mix well.
Heat a large, deep frying pan until a drop of water skittles across and evaporates. Add about 1/2 inch of Safflower oil, heat about 10 seconds and carefully add the potato mixture.
Let cook, untouched, on low heat, for 25 to 40 minutes, until deep, golden brown, but not burned. If not deep golden brown, cook longer. Transfer to a plate and add more oil to the pan. Place a greased plate on top of the kugel, hold the two plates together and flip the “kugel” onto the new plate. Remove the top plate and slide the uncooked side of the kugel into the pan and cook until golden brown, about 20 more minutes or longer. Place on a paper towel and drain. Sprinkle a little kosher salt on top. Cut into slices. Serves 6 to 10.
OPTIONAL: For a real taste treat, caramelize two additional onions and add them to the potato/onion mixture. Serves 6 to 8.
Spicy Baby Potatoes (Pareve)
This is easy to make and serve. I use a large tossable aluminum pan for these.
3 lbs. mixed baby potatoes of similar sizes such as Red Bliss, Yukon Gold and fingerling, cut in half.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 to 2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
OPTIONAL: Add any other spices you like
OPTIONAL: 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Place the olive oil in a large bowl and add the potatoes. Toss to coat. Place the spices in another large bowl and mix well.
Take the potatoes from the oil bowl and drop into the spice bowl. Toss to coat. Scoop the potatoes into a roasting pan with a slotted spoon and then mix the remaining spices into the remaining oil and mix well. Drizzle over the potatoes and roast for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender, toss and roast another 10 to 20 minutes until deeply golden and crispy. Serve hot. Serves 8 to 12.
Gingered Sweet Potatoes and Squash (Pareve)
2 lbs. sweet potatoes (I use garnet yams), peeled and cubed
2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and cubed
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil, more if needed
2 to 6 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
2 to 6 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon, more to taste
1 cup dried cranberries, cherries, or snipped apricots
1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a rimmed baking dish and set aside. Place the cubed potatoes and squash in large bowl. Add the oil and toss to coat. Add the grated ginger and toss to coat.
Pour onto the prepared baking dish. Mix the dark brown sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle evenly over the potatoes and squash. Bake at 350 for about 25 to 35 minutes. Sprinkle with the cranberries and nuts and bake for another 20 minutes, until fork tender. Serves 8 to 10.