Thursday, December 22, 2011

A kugel and a cocktail! L'chaim!

Grandma Ruthie, my mother, had little interest in lite or reduced-fat products but might have been swayed by some of the flavorful options available today. This updated version of her high-octane Hannukkah classic is just as satisfying but causes less guilt -- well, just enough, considering it's creamy roots are definitely Jewish.

If you have access to fresh ricotta (check Trader Joe's), ignore the calories and use that instead of the processed reduced-fat type. Also, feel free to substitute your favorite jam (but not mixed berry, trust me) or crispy cereal, or add handful of golden raisins or other dried fruit.

A special tip regarding golden raisins from my friend Norma Kessler, baker and pastry chef at the highly-regarded Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, paired with related a cocktail suggested by me: 

  • Plump golden raisins by simmering them for a few minutes in a small saucepan with equal parts dry white wine, orange juice, white rum and simple syrup. Drain and reserve liquid, stirring raisins into kugel mix before baking. 
  • Add a jigger of rum to the remaining liquid, pour into shaker with crushed ice and shake vigorously. Strain into glasses with a few ice cubes; top with ginger ale and an orange slice for a festive sip.

16 oz. reduced-fat cottage cheese (such as, Light 'n Lively)
16 oz. fresh or reduced-fat ricotta
8 oz. reduced-fat sour cream
4-6 tbps. butter, melted and cooled, divided
12-15 oz. jar less-sugar apricot jam (or whatever you like)
1/2 cup golden raisins, optional (see above)
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 16 oz. bag egg noodles
4 cups Frosted Flakes (or similar crispy cereal), crushed
vegetable oil spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook noodles in salted water 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain and rinse lightly with cool water.

While noodles are cooking, mix cheeses, sour cream, eggs and half of the melted butter in a large bowl until well blended. Add jam, salt and golden raisins (if using), stir again until jam is mostly incorporated -- a few blobs here and there are not only fine but also desirable (if you're lucky enough to get that slice). Add cooled noodles into mixture and fold until well blended.

Coat 9x13 baking pan with vegetable spray. Pour in mixture and lightly smooth top. Put cereal in zip-top bag and crush coarsely with mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle evenly over mixture then drizzle with remaining melted butter. If you like, gild crumbs with a spritz of vegetable oil spray to make sure it's all coated.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until tester comes out clean and top is crispy and lightly browned. Let cool at least 10 minutes before slicing.

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