Thirteen onions. That’s how many we had sitting on our counter, even though we’ve eaten them like crazy over the last couple of weeks. It seems as though we just get the number of onions down, and then, pow, more onions in our CSA share. We know why we get a lot of produce sometimes, but it still can be daunting when you have a small hill of onions with possibly more on the way. So, we decided to make something new with some of those onions: a Savory Onion Kugel. Now, to be honest, we’ve never made a kugel, have little idea of how to make a kugel, and we doubt that this would pass muster as a traditional kugel (they’re a generally sweet, traditionally Jewish dish), and it’s unlikely to be kosher, but we won’t let those little things stop us Scratchers.
Okay, we looked around and found that a kugel is essentially a baked custard with egg noodles and other ingredients mixed in. Heck, we can make that in our sleep. After all, boiling some pasta is simple, and stirring together eggs and dairy is no problem, so we’re on easy street. As you should expect from the above discussion, this recipe sprang forth from the research department here in the Scratchin’ It Complex.
We went with goat cheese, simply because we had it on hand. If not, we would have used either heavy cream or cultured heavy cream, known as crème fraîche (it’s super-easy to make, which is good, because it’s pricey in the stores — follow the instructions for Sour Cream). The eggs, as always, are from free-range hens. And, it’s true, they just taste better. You’ll note that we didn’t make our own pasta for this dish, nor did we use the traditional egg noodles; we wanted something with a more three-dimensional shape, so we settled on campanelle, those flower-shaped pasta.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Oil an 8×8-inch baking dish and set aside.
Cook onions. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper to add a bit of flavor. The salt will also help draw out the liquid from the onions, so they cook faster. Stir and cook on medium until the onions are wilted and tender. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and continue to cook, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are quite soft and starting to take on a light golden color, 20 minutes more. Remove from heat.
Boil pasta. Bring a large kettle of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions. If you want, knowing that the pasta will cook a bit while baking, you can drain the pasta just a minute or so before it’s completely done. Or, you can cook it all the way. It won’t matter much for this dish. Once cooked, drain completely and set aside.
Make custard. In a large bowl, whisk together cheese (or cream), eggs, poppy seeds, and nutmeg until smooth and creamy. Stir in pasta and onions until well mixed. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, sprinkle with grated cheese, and cover with baking parchment. The parchment will allow moisture to cook off, while preventing the cheese from browning too much; also, the cheese doesn’t stick to it.
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake about 30 minutes, or until the custard is set. Remove the parchment and continue to bake until golden, another 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand on a wire rack 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.
When this dish is first out of the oven, it’s really good: a bit cheesy, not too onion-y, and, it slices like a stiff lasagna; we thought it was great. But, with an 8×8-inch pan full of kugel, there was no way the two of us could eat it all in one sitting, so we had leftover kugel the next day. Interestingly, it wasn’t as good, and we aren’t sure why. It seemed to lose some of its flavor over night. The texture was still there, and we still liked it, but the leftovers weren’t as impressive (unlike dishes such as lasagna, where they’re often better the next day). We’ll give this kugel four stars.