Matzo Kugel (Laska kugli)

photo taken by Abraham Wallin, on April 9, 2009, CC licensing

Though all the kugels in Riza neni's reper¬toire included sugar, she served most of them as accompaniments to savory dishes.
On occasion some could take the place of desserts on her Sabbath table, but I doubt that 
she would have ever offered this kugel as a dessert - it is most emphatically a side dish.
The idea of serving such a slightly sweet pudding with savory dishes sounds odd today, but it used to be quite common in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. Much as I love culinary history, when I spend hours preparing a dish only to find it unappealing, it gives me little consolation to read that centuries ago people used to love it. But as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. And, well, in my opinion, this pudding would go very nicely - just to pick an example-with roast or stuffed chicken (see recipe on page 229) and a salad. It would also be great as a meatless main course if served with Riza neni's mildly sour, ginger- and cinnamon-flavored green beans.

This is again a recipe of which I have slightly different versions from Riza neni, her older sister, and her niece. Riza neni lined the bottom of her kugel form with fatty chicken skin over which she placed a layer of sliced potatoes, but I preferred to follow her sister's suggestion of using only potatoes without the chicken skin as the base. I also took from her sister's recipe the idea of adding a small amount of grated apple to the dough, because I thought this made the kugel moister and less dense. Instead of the chopped hard beef fat in the original recipe, I used chopped raw chicken fat, Though it gets cooked and completely absorbed during bak¬ing, should you have qualms about adding raw fat to the dish, you can sub¬stitute rendered chicken fat.

21/2 sheets (7" x 6l/2") or 3 sheets (6" x 6") unsalted
matzo, broken into about 1" pieces
1 cup fruity white wine
l/2 cup water
3/4 cup walnut halves
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon rendered chicken fat or canola oil
1 large Yukon Gold potato (about 5 ounces) cut
crosswise into 1/8"-1/4" thick slices (about
10 slices)
1/4 cup rendered chicken fat, softened
5 large egg yolks 
11/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest 
11/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine
1/3 cup sugar
1 pinch kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup very finely chopped raw chicken fat
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored,
and coarsely grated
1 cup unsalted matzo meal
1-2 tablespoons white wine
6 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

SPECIAL ¬EQUIPMENT: food processor
7”- or 8" -diameter souffle dish (about 31/2" deep)
or a similar-sized round pot
electric mixer (optional)
parchment paper
baking sheet

1. In a medium bowl, soak the matzo pieces in a mixture of wine and water for about 8 minutes then squeeze them out and set them aside. Discard the sqaking liquid. Place walnuts and 1/3 cup sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process for about 10 seconds, until finely ground.

2. Grease the souffle dish with rendered fat or oil. Place slices of potato in I layer tightly against each other to cover most of the bottom of the dish. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.

3. Place softened rendered fat, egg yolks, lemon zest and juice, 2 table¬spoons wine, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk to blend and continue whisking for a few minutes until the mixture gets slightly foamy. Add soaked matzo, ground walnuts, chopped chicken fat, raisins, grated apple, and matzo meal, then stir to blend. Let it rest for about 20 minutes for the matzo meal to absorb some of the mois¬ture. The mixture should be slightly soft, not dry. If necessary, stir in a little more wine by the tablespoonful to get the right consistency.

4. Whip egg whites and cream of tartar until they form firm peaks. Stir half of the egg whites into the matzo mixture, then carefully fold in the remaining whites. It should be a very soft batter. Pour the batter into the souffle dish, even out the top by gently tapping the dish, cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside the dish and lay it over the batter, place the dish on a baking sheet and bake it in the preheated oven for) 1 hour. Remove the parchment cover and continue baking the kugel for additional 15 to 20 minutes.

5. Place the dish, with the kugel still in it, on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes. Run a knife around the kugel to release it, place a large inverted dinner plate on top of the dish, hold them tightly together and flip them over so that the kugel can drop onto the plate. Remove the dish, place a large flat serving plate upside-down on the kugel, and while holding the kugel sandwiched between the plates, invert it onto the serving plate. Allow it to cool for another 30 minutes. Serve it lukewarm or at room temperature.

Approximate time for preparation:
about 2 hours, plus cooling time

Serves: about 8 servings

Sephardic or Askhenazi