Tinkering with my grandmother’s recipes feels a bit like suggesting to Mozart that he might have been off a note or two.
But even when I follow her recipes to the letter, the dishes never come out quite like Nannie’s. And it’s more than the ambiguity of her pinches and dashes, I swear there was some kind of alchemy in her little kitchen. What is lost in translation from generation to generation is a long-standing mystery. Even my Nannie had trouble, she could never quite manage her mother’s babka and it plagued her for decades!
Which is why it’s perhaps not really sacrilege to mess around with Nannie’s noodle kugel. Although Nannie’s kugel was the iconic holiday dish of my childhood, who’s to say it can’t be just as tasty with a twist? I’ve certainly messed with the recipe before. The year we studied in France, my college friends and I endeavored to treat our host families to our American classics. Sasha’s mom sent her a packet of Old Elpaso seasoning so that she could make tacos, and Bonnie’s dad mailed a bag of Tollhouse morsels for chocolate chip cookies. But for my host family, I attempted my Nannie’s noodle kugel. No easy task, let me assure you. As I tried to explain the concept of cottage cheese to the woman at the fromagerie, I began to understand what I was in for. And when I found that there was no translation for kugel or for casserole in my French-English dictionary, I did my best in calling the dish a pudding, confusing my host mother to no end. But after a few tentative glances, my host mother took a bite and was entranced; and better than that, my little host sisters gobbled up the kugel. Maybe it was the creme fraiche or the tangy cheese, but Nannie’s kugel had morphed into something distinctly French, and a hit with French toddlers.
And with a bit of spice and berries, this kugel has once again been transformed. Nannie’s version was heavy on the butter, sugar and raisins. But the hint of spice and the brightness of the dried berries makes this kugel not just a side-dish but a perfect brunch star all on its own. And when we devoured this kugel after a day of fasting for the Yom Kippur holiday, even my picky brother and nostalgic mother agreed, everything (even kugel) tastes better with a bit of rum!
This recipe marks my first entry into FoodBuzz’s Project Food Blog. New England Noodle Kugel epitomizes me and Cozy, Delicious… a bit nostalgic, a bit funky, and 100% tasty. The voting starts on Monday the 20th so please head over to FoodBuzz to vote for me!
New England Noodle Kugel
18 ounces (about 1 1/2 packages) wide egg noodles
2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried blueberries (optional)
1 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons spiced rum
2 cups reduced fat cottage cheese
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
3 tablespoons milk
6 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves
3 tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the noodles in boiling water until almost tender (you want them slightly undercooked). Drain and rinse the noodles in cool water. Meanwhile, soak the cranberries and blueberries (if using) in the hot water and the rum for at least 15 minutes, then drain. Stir together the cottage cheese, sour cream, milk, and eggs. Add in the cinnamon, ginger and cloves and mix well. Toss the noodles with the cottage cheese mixture. Spread into a buttered 9 by 11 inch baking pan. Dot the top of the kugel with bits of butter. Bake for about 45 minutes until the top is lightly browned and the kugel is set.