I'll start by saying I've never made potato kugel. Never. Not once. Oh, I've made potato pancakes plenty of times, and sometimes they've even come out great. But potato kugel...nah.
Kugel, for those who don't know, is a type of pudding or casserole that's baked in the oven. Most are served warm, but they may be served at room temperature as well. Here's the wiki on kugel.
So the other night (the first night of Passover, it so happens), when Significant Eater and I were invited to a mini-seder at a neighbor's apartment, I offered to bring a dish that was suitable for Passover (after I first offered to bring an orzo salad, and was roundly and suitably booed). And then I figured, what the hell? Go for the gusto - er, make that kugel. Even better, make kugelettes.
Of course, what are kugelettes but mini kugels? Since I've never made potato kugel, and I have a philosophy of never bringing or serving a dish to guests that I haven't made before, this was a fairly ballsy move, imo. I started going through a few of my Jewish food cookbooks - that's them, pictured above - and after much research I cobbled together the following recipe. So I can sort of call it my own - even though I took the inspiration from above (get it?). And guess what? The kugelettes came out great - delicious enough that I wouldn't hesitate bringing them to any dinner; Passover for sure, but they'd go great with a leg of lamb at your Easter table as well. And don't tell your bubbe - but they'd probably go damn good with a pork roast too.
Here's the recipe...
4 lbs. potatoes - use Russet or Yukon Golds, or mix 'em like I did - grated or shredded
1 1/2 lbs. yellow onions, (1/2 minced, 1/2 grated with potatoes)
3-4 big cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup matzo meal
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 T minced celery leaves (yes, leaves)
4 T minced parsley
6 T schmaltz (I used duck fat, you can use good olive oil)
Lots of salt and pepper - it needs it (start with 1 1/2 tsps. of salt)
2 regular sized muffin tins of 12 muffins each (nonstick is best) - Oven Preheated to 375 F.
Now, the technique part is where I really got creative.
First - the potatoes. Peel them. You can shred or grate them, by hand or in the food processor, but there are a few caveats. If you use the food processor, you may end up with very long shreds (I did) if you shred them horizontally (I did). I didn't think the long, lacy shreds would work well in kugelettes, and ended up also cutting them into smaller pieces; it didn't take long, but was an added step. So shred them vertically, and you should be okay. Also, and this is important, the potatoes need to be drained and squeezed fairly dry after shredding. Literally, wring the shreds out in your hands or in a clean tea towel over a bowl (who really has tea towels? use a kitchen towel, you'll be fine). Now, the liquid that is exuded shouldn't be discarded - well, it should, but there will remain at the bottom of that bowl a fair amount of potato starch after the liquid is poured off - by all means, use this in the batter. And whew - that's the potato part - hey, I didn't say this was going to be easy, I said this was going to be good!
Next - the onions. Some recipes call for the onion to be grated and raw; others call for the onion to be minced and sautéed. Of course, I did both, sautéing the minced onions along with the garlic in 2 T of the schmaltz, just till they start to get some color, and add the raw grated onions right along with the potatoes. Easy, no; good, yes.
Now it gets easier...sort of. You've got the cooked onions. You've got the shredded and squeezed and drained potatoes and raw onions. Take that stuff, along with everything else you see above, and mix it all together - go ahead and get dirty - use your hands.
The next step is VERY important. You need to taste your mixture - so heat up a frying pan (if you're smart, you still have the pan you used for the onions right on the stove), form a tiny pancake, cook it and taste. Need salt? Need pepper? Need anything? Well, add them and do it again. Until it tastes good. You didn't go through all this trouble to make lousy kugelettes, did you?
Okay, now take your muffin tins and spray them well with cooking spray...I actually have nonstick muffin tins, and think these work best - potatoes are notoriously sticky. Fill the tins almost to the top with the mixture, and pop them in the oven. Rotate every 15 minutes or so, and in about 50 minutes to an hour, they should be nice and browned; crispy even. Take them out of the muffin pans and put them on a rack and they'll stay crispy. If you do these ahead of time, they can easily be reheated in a 350 F oven for around 20 minutes and they'll be good as new.
Stand back and admire your kugelettes - you did good. Even your bubbe would be proud.