Jerusalem Kugel of Gold
Jewish cuisine develops from both Halachic reasons as well as through customs. This process is usually a positive one that actually capitalizes on strict restrictions regarding what is permitted to eat. Delicious food on Shabbat must be prepared before Shabbat. It often needs to be left on the fire the whole night due to re-heating restrictions. The results are heavenly dishes. Jerusalem Kugel is a wonderful example of this.
Jerusalem Kugel is a “food” made of noodles, black pepper, oil, eggs, and caramelized sugar. It is a traditional food served for hundreds of years by Chassidim in Israel on Shabbat. It is currently served by all Israelis with a kiddush after Shabbat morning prayers. It is a very special food although it does not contain many ingredients.
Jerusalem Kugel can help a person remain at a high spiritual level attained during the Shabbat morning prayers. This is especially true when the Kugel is accompanied by an uplifting discussion with a Chassidic Rebbe.
Additionally, one should prepare the Kugel in a positive state of mind in honor of the Holy Shabbat. You should even purchase the ingredients “In honor of the Holy Shabbat.” Chefs I have studied with insist that state of mind has a huge effect on the outcome of the food. Therefore they suggest drinking a nice glass of wine while preparing a festive meal we eat on Shabbat. Below we will see other methods.
A great rabbi who is one of the mystical Kabbalists of Jerusalem’s Old City prepares the Jerusalem Kugel himself for the dozens of people who come to his kiddush every Shabbat. One of the people who regularly attend the Rabbi’s Kiddush told me that a student chef won a gold ribbon for his submission of The Rabbi’s kugel during a Pasta recipe competition. He prepares it in the following way:
The Rabbi caringly prepares the Kugel with fanfare. He sings and prepares the Kugel “in honor of the Holy Shabbat.” His high level of enthusiasm is dancing like. He states the quality of the kugel’s flavor is based upon the guests’ attitude.
He first cooks and strains two pounds of thin noodles. They are left to cool a little. He cooks them until they are soft, not aldente. This takes a couple more minutes than it says on the package. The Rabbi saves some of the cooked noodles to put into the Shabbat soup. He puts most of the cooked noodles into an oven safe pot. This is about the size of a soup pot.
After this the Rabbi puts about two cups of oil in a large frying pan. He puts about a Kilo (more than two pounds) of sugar into the oil to Caramelize it. This step requires a very high level of patience and concentration. There is a split second between perfect caramel and burnt flavored caramel. This second occurs soon after the sugar has become light brown. The Rabbi’s concentration is completely focused on stirring the sugar until it is perfect. While stirring the sugar he ceases to sing and does not even hear the telephone ring or those talking to him. Study of the book Tomer Devorah by the ancient Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Cordovero can assist a person to become more patient and focussed. This Rabbi has written a commentary on this book.”
The Rabbi stirs the sugar until it becomes brown. He makes sure that the clumps of sugar dissolve and that the Caramelizing process is even for the whole batch of sugar. His focus is strengthened as the sugar begins to bubble. The Rabbi turns off the fire at the split second that the beige bubbles of froth begin to boil. He then swiftly yet gently pours the oil and Caramel into the noodles. Using both hands he then stirs the mixture with a wooden spoon. He loosens any noodle clumps. He then adds about 30 grams of black pepper and stirs this in evenly. Finally he checks about 10 or 11 eggs for un-kosher blood stains and scrambles them into the Kugel.
At the end of this process he cooks it in the oven for about an hour. The pot is then placed on the stove with a cover over the low fire for Shabbat.
This illustrious Rabbi told me two drashot about Jerusalem Kugel. The Jerusalem Kugel is round (before it gets cut up). A circle has no end. The greatness of the holiness of Shabbat also contains an infinite, non-ending aspect. Additionally the Rabbi states that the Gematria of the word Kugel and Shabbat are equal. However, when one does a little bit math one finds that that Shabbat equals a much higher number than Kugel. To this the Rabbi responds that you must eat more Kugel for them to become even.