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Two holidays with one kugel

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Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

The planets and the calendars have aligned so that Thanksgiving falls on the same day as the start of Hanukkah. Go ahead, try out some Thanksgiving-Hanukkah hybrid names. "Thanksgiv-ukkah" is winning on the Internet, but follow your gut, because this cosmic convergence of family and feasting traditions won't happen again for another 70,000 years or so. Oy vey!

How to commemorate this once in-800-lifetimes cross-cultural event? I'm going with a sweet lukshen kugel, a Jewish noodle casserole. It's a recipe passed down through my family — my Japanese mother got it from my father's Irish cousin who got it from her Anglo-Saxon stepdaughter's Jewish boyfriend. Very Thanksgiv-ukkah. I have many fond memories of this dish at holiday meals and the shallow breathing that followed. The kugel is a creamy, custardy casserole topped with a graham cracker streusel. It's not for the faint of heart, or anyone with a pre-existing heart condition for that matter. But this is Thanksgiving and Hanukkah — if you're not going to pull the trigger now, then when? And what's this mishegoss about not having sweets on your dinner plate? Thanksgiving is the time of year when sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows sit right next to the Brussels sprouts. Sure it's rich, but you can always take a walk afterward. Or a long nap. Just make sure someone checks on you every so often.

Noodle Kugel

Ingredients and method:

6 eggs, separated
12 ounce package wide egg noodles
1 pound cottage cheese
1/2 cup sugar
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons sour cream
3/4 stick of unsalted butter cut into pats
Pinch of salt

For the topping:

2 sticks of unsalted butter (Don't look at me like that.)
1 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Use one pat of butter to grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Boil and drain the noodles according to package directions, then toss them with the rest of the butter until they're all shiny and slippery.

In a medium bowl, cream the cottage cheese with a mixer and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the creamed cottage cheese, sour cream and salt. Use a wooden spoon to stir the noodles in with the creamy mixture.

Back to the mixer. In a clean bowl with clean blades, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the noodle mixture and put it all in the greased baking dish.

Now it's time for the topping. Melt the butter and stir in the sugar and graham cracker crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the noodles. Place the dish in the center rack and bake at 350° F for one hour. (Watch the edges for burning if your oven is at all tricky.) Let it cool for 15 minutes before you cut and serve.

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Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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