Gabi's Great Bubbe's Luxion Kugel
Ingredients for Base
8 oz (by weight) wide egg noodles cooked al dente
¼ lb (1 stick) butter
8 oz cream cheese
½ cup sugar
1 cup milk
Medium-to-heavy pinch of salt
Extra butter for buttering casserole dish
Ingredients for Topping
1 cup corn flakes
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar (packed)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Medium-to-heavy pinch of salt
Extra butter, in quartered pats, for topping the topping
Steps for Base
Pre-heat oven to 350° F
Butter casserole dish (9 x 13)
Cook noodles to al dente in boiling, salted water; set aside to cool
Melt butter and soften cream cheese in a sauce pan
Let butter and cream cheese mixture cool (so the mixture doesn’t cook the eggs)
Whisk all ingredients together (noodles, butter & cream cheese, sugar, eggs, milk, salt)
Place in buttered casserole dish
Steps for Topping
Blend dry ingredients together with fingers (corn flakes, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt)
Spread corn flake mixture over base
Place pats of butter, quartered, on top of corn flake mixture (to help with moisture and caramelization)
Bake for 50-60 minutes
Skokie > Atlanta > Twin Cities
My friend Gabi, one of my favorite dancers to watch dance, showed up at my apartment on a cold afternoon in February with a box of corn flakes in hand. It was time to experience her Great Bubbe’s Luxion Kugel... a unique family recipe held in high esteem that I was lucky enough to learn.
The first thing to know: a Great Bubbe is a great grandmother -- in this case, Gabi’s Dad’s Mom’s Mom.
When I start asking questions about the people and history behind “Great Bubbe’s Luxion Kugel," the story quickly blooms. It spreads from the 2020s to the 1900s. From Minnesota to Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Ellis Island, Scotland, Poland, Lithuania. From the safety and security of my home to some places that were very much neither.
While it’s her great Bubbe’s recipe, Gabi learned this family treasure and (accompanying stories) from her dad. He'd make it every Thanksgiving and Gabi would listen to him relive his youth while they grabbed mixing bowls and whisked ingredients.
Gabi’s dad spent his early years in 1960s Skokie, Illinois. She tells me, at the time, Skokie had the highest proportion of Holocaust survivors in the US, if not the world (outside of Israel). He remembers growing up with a garage full of pickling supplies and drying sausage. He remembers his own father (Gabi’s Zeide) owned a kosher hot dog restaurant.
When I ask if the pickling supplies and drying sausage in the garage were for the hot dog restaurant, Gabi is unsure. I found that A) funny and B) illuminating – even the possibility that sausage drying in a garage and a hot dog restaurant could be coincidentally happening within the same household offers vivid insight to the times.
Gabi’s Great Zeide, her dad’s dad’s dad, worked at the Chicago Fish and Farmers Market.
Times were tough and the workers were allowed to claim anything that hit the floor. Great Zeide routinely arrived home with pockets packed with potatoes and green beans – the latter Gabi’s dad liked to eat raw.
And sometimes they had lobster.
Worth noting: At the time, lobster was cheap food and hadn’t made the leap to upper-class menus.
Also worth noting: lobster is not kosher... keeping kosher was a food practice that eventually fell away after coming through Ellis Island -- a decision born from economic realities.
When Gabi’s dad was 12, his parents packed up and left Skokie for Miami. Some years after that, Gabi’s dad went to college and met his future wife, Gabi’s mom.
Very Important Sidenote: Gabi’s mom came to Miami from Pittsburgh in middle school. Gabi’s mom’s mom is Scottish and makes delicious shortbread and empire biscuits. Gabi's mom's dad was Andy Warhol’s cousin -- they grew up together in Pittsburgh. These are recipes and stories that obviously need to be sampled and heard in the future.
Eventually, Gabi’s mom and dad got married, moved from Florida to Atlanta, and started the life that Gabi remembers. Gabi’s dad graduated from learning how to make the family’s Luxion Kugel to teaching the dish to his own daughter.
In a way, listening to Gabi’s tales of her family’s history is listening to her recollect time spent with her dad -- every Thanksgiving in the kitchen with him, hearing his tales of a childhood in Skokie while making the family's luxion kugel. It feels fitting to spend an afternoon with Gabi in parallel: in the kitchen with her, reliving some of her childhood memories, making her family's luxion kugel. I'm thankful I get to pass on this delicious dish and a fraction of those tales.
Gabi was able to spend time with her Great Bubbe but never had this dish from her Great Bubbe’s hands. By the time Gabi was old enough to create memories of her Great Bubbe, time had taken the better portion of her Great Bubbe’s faculties. This recipe is a connection to Ashkenazi Jewish tradition and her Great Bubbe, all the same.
According to Gabi, a kugel is a quite common Ashkenazi dish. At its core, a kugel is savory and gets made for high holidays. e.g. For Passover one might have a savory, potato kugel. Luxion kugel is commonly sweet. This particular luxion kugel is unique to her family.
Also according to Gabi, kugel should not be wet; you may prefer a wetter kugel, and that is incorrect.