13 May 2008

Los Angeles: Kugl Kukh-off, June 1

What do you call this dish? Kugl, kigl, kugeleh. Is the main ingredient lokshn (noodles) or bulbes (potatoes)?

This ubiquitous dish may be called the ultimate in American Jewish culinary creativity with Ashkenazi (Eastern European) origins. Sweet or savory, it's found on every table and on every plate at all holiday and family gatherings.

Yiddishkayt Los Angeles invites readers (with their favorite kugels) to its Second non-annual Kugl Kukh-Off event from 1-4pm, Sunday, June 1, co-sponsored by and hosted at the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center in Sherman Oaks.

Chefs will need the official kugl entry form - not yet posted, so keep checking the site. Prizes will be awarded for Most Creative, People's Choice, the top three Sweet Kugls, the top three Savory Kugls and Best in Show.

Is your family favorite a rich sweet noodle confection or a thin peppery Jerusalem variety? Kugels range from traditional to New Age. Need a recipe? A Google search for "kugel recipe" returned 148,000 hits.

If you're still not sure what this is, here's Wikipedia's definition:

Kugel (Yiddish: קוגל kugl or קוגעל, pronounced either koogel with the "oo" like the "oo" in "book or "look", or kigel, as was pronounced in Galicia) is any one of a wide variety of traditional baked Jewish side dishes or desserts. It is sometimes translated as "pudding" or "casserole".

Kugels may be sweet or savory. The most common types are made from egg noodles (called lochshen kugels) or potatoes and often contain eggs, but there are recipes in everyday use in modern Jewish kitchens for a great diversity of kugels made with different vegetables, fruit, batters, cheese, and other flavorings and toppings.

Sweet Kugels
In the 17th century, sugar was introduced, giving home cooks the option of serving kugel as a sweet side dish or dessert. In Poland, Jewish homemakers sprinkled raisins, cinnamon and sweet farmer's cheese into noodle kugel recipes. Hungarians took the dessert concept further with a hefty helping of sugar and some sour cream. Most sweet Kugels are served cold or at room temperature. In the late 19th century, Jerusalemites combined caramelized sugar and black pepper in a noodle kugel known as "Jerusalem kugel," which is a commonly served at Shabbat Kiddushes and is a popular side dish served with cholent during Shabbat lunch.

Savory Kugels
While less renowned than their sweeter cousins, savory kugels have always existed. Early noodle recipes called for onions and salt and were tasty at room temperature. Over the centuries, inspired cooks have skipped the noodles, substituting potatoes, matzah, carrots, zucchini, spinach or cheese for the base.

Today many cooks top kugels with corn flakes, graham cracker crumbs, ground gingersnaps or caramelized sugar. Inspired cooks may layer the dish with sliced pineapples or apricot jam.

Bring your best kugel (or a favorite tasting fork) and prepare for a day that will make you question everything you thought you knew about this ubiquitous Jewish dish. They've even produced a video that entices visitors to enter a new dimension, to taste the future and the past.

Celebrity judges include Pulitzer Prize winner Jonathan Gold (Gourmet & LA Weekly), Evan Kleiman (host of KCRW's Good Food), Amy Albert (Bon Appetit), Marvin Saul (Junior's Deli) and others judges.

In addition to tasting the yummy dishes, there will also be live entertainment, oral history recording and a family workshop.

Admission is $10 ($8 for Yiddishkayt and VCJCC members/seniors), including three kugl tastings. Additional tastings are two for $1. Bring the kids: Under 12s get free admission and one tasting. Chefs bringing a kugel get free admission.

For more details, click here.

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