Sautéed Cabbage and Garlic Noodle Kugel

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Yield:

    6–8

    servings

Appears in

Like potatoes, beets, and carrots, protean cabbage turned up on Ashkenazi tables in many forms, from tart sauerkraut to a sugared filling for delicate strudel dough, not to mention lusty cabbage soup and meat-stuffed cabbage rolls. A favorite among Central European Jews was an irresistible tangle of sautéed cabbage ribbons and golden egg noodles, lavishly sprinkled with poppy or caraway seeds.

First parboiled, the cabbage is then lightly browned, intensifying its flavors to a nutty sweetness, which is heightened by the poppy seeds. Garlic cloves—lots of them—are my addition. They’re very slowly sautéed until the olive oil is deeply flavored and the garlic is soft and mellow.

I’ve also added eggs and broth, and made the recipe a kugel, or baked pudding. Sturdy, economical dishes that can be cooked ahead and reheated for holiday meals, kugels were originally starchy puddings baked along with the Sabbath cholent. Eventually, they became very popular and Jewish cooks began baking them in separate pans, binding the ingredients—savory or sweet—with eggs, and thickening them with various starches. They remain well-liked today, especially potato and noodle puddings, for preparing a kugel is an excellent way to avoid last-minute preparation and give “staying power” to a side dish or vegetable.

This kugel complements any grilled or roasted meat or chicken.

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons toasted matzoh meal or toasted bread crumbs
  • One 1½ to 2-pound head of green cabbage
  • Salt
  • 8 ounces medium egg noodles (preferably flat, not the twisted spiral kind, which won’t absorb as much of the flavoring)
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional oil for greasing the pan
  • 6 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped (3–4 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups homemade chicken or vegetable broth or good-quality low-sodium canned

Method

  1. Prepare a 13- by 9-inch baking pan: Grease it well and sprinkle the bottom with the matzoh meal or bread crumbs, shaking out any excess.
  2. Start the cabbage. Discard any bruised or tough outer leaves, then cut the head into six wedges. Trim away the hard core portions. In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring 4–5 quarts of cold water and 1 tablespoon salt to a rolling boil. Add the cabbage and cook, uncovered, for 8–10 minutes, or until the cabbage is just tender. Reserving the cooking water in the pot, scoop out the cabbage with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a colander to drain.
  3. Bring the reserved cabbage cooking water back to a boil in the pot and in it cook the noodles until just tender. Drain them well, then transfer to a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil.
  4. In a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet, warm the remaining 4 tablespoons oil over very gentle heat. Add the garlic and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the garlic turns palest blond, 8–10 minutes. Scoop out the garlic with a slotted spoon and set it aside in a small bowl. Reserve the oil, now deliciously infused with garlic, in the skillet.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  6. Using your hands, squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the cabbage in the colander. (Alternatively, you can press down on the cabbage with the back of a spoon if you are reluctant to use your hands, although I find this method less efficient.) Lay the squeezed cabbage between layers of paper towels and press to remove surface moisture. Slice the cabbage into coarse shreds, then cut the shreds into bite-size pieces.
  7. Heat the reserved garlic oil in the skillet over moderately high heat. Toss in the cabbage and sauté, lifting and turning over high heat, until it is flecked here and there with a nutty brown, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved garlic and the poppy seeds, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes to marry the flavors. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool slightly.
  8. Assemble the kugel. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the broth until smooth. Stir in the noodles and the cabbage and combine thoroughly. Spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish and bake for 50 minutes, or until the kugel feels firm, its lightly browned edges are pulling away from the sides, and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Allow the kugel to set for at least 25 minutes before cutting into squares to serve. Reheat if necessary.

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