Said meal would normally include some sort of kugel.
I typically cannot stand kugel, particularly sweet kugels, particularly the noodle kugels that are served not at Passover, but during other Jewish holidays throughout the year. And I know I'm not alone. One of my very best friends in this world, who happens to be Jewish, agrees with me. In fact, as she was emailing me the other day about the heinousness of the kugel, she informed me that her spell check wanted to change "kugel" to "cudgel." Considering that a cudgel is a short, heavy stick or club -- and "cudgeled" is to beat or strike with or as if with a cudgel -- she wondered if spell check had the capacity to express irony.
So rather than being cudgeled by a kugel, make a Moroccan mashed potato casserole instead. It's a delicious twice-baked amalgamation of mashed potatoes, vegetables and spice, a tasty dish that's nearly quiche-like in its texture. I suppose technically it is a kugel -- or at least it's kugel-like -- but it's totally a kugel I can get behind. It doesn't have any matzo in it, as many kugels do, but it is replete with potatoes, onions and eggs and is cooked in a casserole dish -- as is another certain dreaded Jewish holiday mainstay. The edges are crispy, the interior is light and fluffy and the white pepper and turmeric lend the faintest bit of spice, way in the background. It is, in short, the "kugel" for which I've been looking. And I didn't even know I was looking for kugel.
Now it's entirely possible that I've been fooled by semantics here, and it turns out I do like kugel after all. Because there are as many vastly different kugel recipes as there are Jewish cooks in this world. But I'm telling you, a kugel by any other name -- especially one that goes by "Moroccan potato casserole" -- is delicious.
P.S. No need to reserve this recipe for Passover alone -- it is a dynamite side dish that's good any old time of year.
MOROCCAN MASHED POTATO CASSEROLE
Adapted from Olive Trees and Honey, by Gil Marks
Gil sez, "Middle Easterners, rarely content with plain boiled or mashed potatoes, frequently add various spices and vegetables and usually bake or fry the mixture. In this casserole, which is popular Moroccan Passover fare, the various ingredients lend complexity to basic mashed potatoes."
2 lbs. unpeeled baking potatoes, scrubbed
4 t. kosher salt. divided
1 carrot, diced
3 T. vegetable oil, plus more to oil the pan
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, mashed
6 large eggs
1/2 t. white pepper
1/4 t. turmeric
1 c. peas
1/3 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Put the potatoes in a large pot and add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add 2 t. of the salt and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 30 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, place the carrot in a small saucepan of water, bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
When the potatoes are fork-tender, drain and let them sit for about 10 minutes, or until you can handle them. Peel the potatoes and, while still warm, run them through a ricer or food mill. Alternatively, you can return the peeled potatoes to the cooking pot and mash them with a potato masher, being careful not to over-mix. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Set aside.
Add the eggs to the potatoes and whisk to combine well. Stir in the remaining salt, white pepper and turmeric. Add the onions, carrot, peas and parsley.
Generously oil a casserole dish, then heat it in the oven until hot, about 3 minutes. Carefully spoon the potato mixture into the baking dish -- it will sizzle dramatically in a manner unknown to boring kugel. Bake until golden and set, about 50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 6-8 servings.