I had kugel a few times when I was younger. Mostly at the homes of other people. I'm sure I had it more than once, but I distinctly remember once being at the home of my aunt and uncle (on my mother's side) who kept kosher. This is a dish for dairy meals.
You see, one of the ways that people keep kosher is to separate dairy from meats and never eat them in the same meal.
Now, if you want to go all out with the kosher thing, you even have separate cabinets for the dishes that you use with meats and the dishes that you use with dairy. Grandma had a fairly big kitchen to hold all those dishes. Okay, there are much bigger kitchens, but her house was of a modest size.
Back to the kugel.
Traditional kugel is fattening! When I went looking for recipes I found that they called for an entire stick of butter, 4% cottage cheese, and full-fat sour cream. Well, those were the good recipes. I was insulted at some of the recipes I found that used ricotta cheese. Shame on them! ricotta is for lasagna and manacotti, not kugel.
Between the fattening and the non-traditional ingredients, I decided that I had to create my own kugel recipe. I used the others as a guide. My recipe only uses one tablespoon butter, 2% cottage cheese (I prefer Breakstones), and low fat sour cream (Daisy's is best for me).
Then, I had to choose between the toppings.
Many of the recipes call for corn flake crumbs. But I also saw one that looked appealing with graham cracker crumbs instead. I decided to try both and do a comparison. Here's what I found out.
Crushed Corn Flake Topping
Graham Cracker Crumb Topping
When fresh out of the oven, I really liked the corn flake topping. It added some texture, which kugel tends to lack. But as a leftover, it became soggy as it sat. At that point, I preferred the graham cracker topping.
So choose your topping based on when you are going to eat your kugel, unless you just flat-out like graham cracker crumbs and want to use them every time.
As for the flavors, I did some traditional, some non-traditional. I added golden raisins. That's the traditional. But then I got freaky and threw in some minced, candied ginger and orange zest. I like the flavors.
One other note, when I made this recipe, I used 1 cup of sugar. But in the end, though it was delicious, I thought it was a bit too sweet. I suggest cutting back to 2/3 cup, so that is what I'm writing into the ingredient list.
Kugel is great, and easy to prepare. About a month ago I suggested it to some people who wanted to make something Jewish for a large crowd. When I gave them a recipe they looked kind of grossed-out. But in the end, when they found out how much time they had and how much work other recipes were, they went for it, and it was all good.
Go ahead and give it a try.