Caramelized onion kugel cups

By | June 27, 2013

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This recipe and story first appeared in the April 22, 2013 edition of “From Tali’s Kitchen,” my biweekly cooking column in Binah magazine.

One of my good friends recovered in her mother’s home for a full month after giving birth to her first child. Others have stayed with their parents for a week or two before bringing their babies home for the first time. But I always knew that I’d go straight home from the hospital — that’s just what you do when you live across the ocean from your parents (and your in-laws).

Our son’s birth in December taught us a lot of things very quickly: that you can love a tiny, wriggly thing who can barely make out your face, much less hold a conversation; that even deep sleepers can wake at the slightest peep when that peep comes from their newborn; and that scrawny little legs can be strong enough to kick off their own pants.

But it also taught us that living in Kochav HaShachar is, in many ways, just like going to your parents after a birth.

How did you get home from the hospital? My husband and I had planned to take an Egged bus (that’s right, no car), but we received a wonderful surprise the day we were discharged: a friend from the yishuv drove into Yerushalayim for the sole purpose of bringing us home.

And if you walked through your front door 60 hours before you’d be making a bris, how would you manage to get it together without calling a caterer? We thought we could do it ourselves, but received wonderful surprise #2 just hours after we came home: a friend came over to go through the menu and decoration details with me, a notebook and her own baby in tow. She didn’t even blink when we told her we wanted to do the food ourselves to cut costs. She just offered to make egg salad and pasta salad for 60, assemble the cheese and veggie platters, and set up the buffet and seating tables. Two other neighbors with experience working for a caterer helped her with the set-up. The fact that they were so new in the yishuv that I’d barely had a chance to say hello was a nonissue.

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You received meals from your neighbors after your children’s births, right? So did we — for three entire Shabboses, in addition to so many weekday meals that I had to tell the woman organizing it all that there was simply no space for anything more. Later, my husband and I made a list with the names of everyone who cooked for us and found that the total came to 24. But it didn’t stop there. Even when the formally organized meals came to a close, the neighbors kept on giving. Unexpected knocks at the door produced fresh challah rolls, cake, kugel, and a chocolate-covered something delivered in a rain storm that went straight in the freezer — which already held four different soups from four different neighbors.

Our friends also came forward to loan us everything from a car seat and an authentic British pram to a baby carrier sling and extra onesies. And they gave of their time, too.

One of my favorite offers came from a close friend who was herself expecting — she came over on the Shabbos morning after the bris just to put our food on the plata and set the table. We were having my mother, sister, in-laws, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law that Shabbos, and it was a relief to know that everything would be ready when they walked in from shul.

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Speaking of our families, though, I’d be remiss if I left out the part about their flying in from the States and Canada to be with us after the birth. Who drove my husband to the grocery store to pick up bagels and sliced cheeses for the bris, practically fresh off the plane? My mother-in-law. Who put in 12-hour days helping me decorate Cookie Monster cupcakes and melted snowmen cookies for the bris dessert table? My mother, who ironically never allowed such things in the house when I was growing up.

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Our families made themselves completely available to us — which explains how my sister came to spend half an hour good-naturedly combining two partially full mustard bottles in an attempt to make room in the fridge for the deluge of mazal tov meals. (Alas, there was too much to fit in one bottle, and her efforts landed her right back where she started.)

I’m sure there’s nothing like a week or two at your parents’ home to get you back on your feet. But I think coming home to Kochav HaShachar is a pretty close second.

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This caramelized onion kugel is gently adapted from the one that our neighbor Ayala brought over for our first Shabbos at home. Caramelizing onions brings out their natural sweetness, but the process is nudged along here with a touch of sugar at the beginning and a splash of balsamic vinegar at the end. The result is a rich brown color and a deep flavor, both of which translate wonderfully in the finished kugel.


21 Comments

Bracha on June 27, 2013 at 7:31 am.

This sounds so yummy! Could I possibly use Red Wine vinegar instead?
Thanks

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Tali Simon on June 27, 2013 at 9:20 am.

I think it would work (but you can also just skip the balsamic).

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malka on June 27, 2013 at 9:12 pm.

Speaking of those melted snow-men coookies….I am still waiting on that recipe. Yum yum yum!

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Rose on June 28, 2013 at 9:48 am.

Can substitute milk for soy milk???

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Tali Simon on June 28, 2013 at 10:07 am.

Definitely.

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Dvora on June 28, 2013 at 10:33 am.

Looks delicious – looking forward to trying it. Just make sure to remove the bay leaves!

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Tali Simon on June 28, 2013 at 11:04 am.

Whoops. Just updated the directions. Thanks!

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Elianna M. on July 21, 2013 at 5:14 am.

Made this in a 9×13 and it was so delicious!

One question- what actual measurements of salt and pepper do you recommend?

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Tali Simon on July 21, 2013 at 7:47 am.

In this specific dish, I go easy on both the salt and pepper, probably a scant 1/4 tsp salt and a light sprinkle of pepper (1/8 tsp or even less). The onions are just so flavorful on their own.

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Dvora on August 4, 2013 at 10:26 am.

Made these for Shabbat – they were delicious, even though I forgot them for a little bit at the end of baking so they were VERY browned… A real hit!
I got 18 muffins out of it, so after filling the first 12 in the pre-heated pan, I filled the last 6 in a greased but not heated tin. I could not see much of a difference in the two pans, so I may skip that step in the future.
one more question, out of curiosity – did you use metal or disposable muffin tins for these? actually two questions – were they hot or cold when you photographed them?

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Tali Simon on August 5, 2013 at 5:18 pm.

I used metal tins (which might make a difference), and I photographed them when they were room temperature.

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Blima on August 25, 2013 at 12:06 pm.

how does this freeze?

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Tali Simon on August 25, 2013 at 1:51 pm.

I haven’t tried freezing it, but since caramelized onions are supposed to freeze well, I think it’s worth a try.

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Alex on September 3, 2013 at 4:56 am.

To shorten the time to caramelize the onions, sprinkle a little (and I mean LITTLE) bit of baking soda after the onions have been cooking for about 10 minutes. White onions may turn yellowish for a while before that fabulous Maillard Reaction turns them brown and yummy. I’m serious about the little part, otherwise your onions will taste like baking soda.

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Tali Simon on September 3, 2013 at 6:19 am.

Never heard of this. 1/4 tsp? 1/8 tsp? And for how many onions?

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Alex on September 3, 2013 at 6:26 am.

A scant 1/4 tsp. I must credit America’s Test Kitchen with the info. They also explained how a bit of baking soda and a bit of salt in soaking water helps dried beans not split when cooked. From baking to cleaning and these additional tricks, I’m convinced that baking soda is the secret to everything. I promise that I have no financial stake in baking soda sales.

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Tali Simon on September 3, 2013 at 6:32 am.

I’ll try it the next time I’m caramelizing onions when it’s just us. Thanks! (I’ve read that baking soda leeches vitamins out of the beans, so I’m less inclined to try it there.)

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pnina on September 3, 2013 at 9:28 am.

can I substitute white flour for the cornstarch? Don’t have any on hand…

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Tali Simon on September 3, 2013 at 11:03 am.

I think that would be fine.

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Elly on September 3, 2013 at 11:14 am.

Please can you tell me how much in weight 8 onions are, approximately ? Experience has taught me that vegetables and potatoes seem to weigh more than the kinds available here in Europe ?! Thank you!

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Tali Simon on September 3, 2013 at 12:37 pm.

I actually just made this kugel today and was able to check my grocery receipt for the weight of the onions I used. It was just under 2 kilos (= just under 4.4 pounds).

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