Spinach, Leek and Goat Cheese Kugel
I know that many kugels tend to veer on the sweet side of the culinary spectrum but decided to create something a bit more savory at the request of JFE’s director, Paul Entis. This recipe is a delightful cross between a noodle pudding and mac n’ cheese. It certainly resonates with me as a comfort food, especially when I learned that it’s a traditional dish served at holiday gatherings of many Jews with roots in Eastern Europe. I’m a strong believer in simultaneously preserving family recipes and putting one’s personal fingerprints on them. So if you’re a kugel aficionado, feel free to get creative—perhaps your riff might involve caramelized onions, jalapeños, fresh mozzarella or feta. Photo by Laura Kumin.
- 8 ounces egg noodles (medium-width)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound fresh spinach
- 2 medium leeks, whites and light green parts only, washed and thinly sliced
- 2 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and stem discarded
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 1½ cups whole milk
- 8 ounces goat cheese, broken into chunks
- 3 eggs, beaten
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Goat Cheese Topping
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 3 ounces goat cheese
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook noodles in salted boiling water according to package directions. Rinse and drain. Place in a large bowl.
- While noodles are cooking, heat large sauté pan and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Quickly sauté spinach in small batches, covering briefly if necessary, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Spread spinach on a baking sheet pan and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess juice and roughly chop. Set aside.
- Heat the same skillet to medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sauté leeks with thyme and minced garlic until translucent. Season with a pinch of salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss the noodles with spinach and leeks. In a medium pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter, then whisk in the flour. Stir until smooth. Gradually whisk in the milk and continue to stir while the mixture comes to a boil and begins to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in goat cheese chunks, cool and then add eggs. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir egg mixture into noodle mixture.
- Put remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil in 9-x-13-inch baking dish and place dish in oven until butter is melted, about 2 minutes. Spread the butter mixture in the pan and on its edges, then pour noodle mixture into the buttered dish.
- Combine all ingredients for the goat cheese topping in a medium size bowl and dot over the top of kugel. Place dish in oven and cook for 45 minutes, or until the topping has nicely browned.