Mushroom, Onion and Farfel Kugel

Passover is a funny holiday. Cooking and baking become sort of like a weird science experiment. You can’t use certain ingredients that you normally would and you create things you likely would not eat during the rest of the year. Though, I have been known to eat Fried Matzah (Matzah Brei) all year long. It’s genetic, I can’t help it.

Before I worked up the courage to try my first-ever Passover Mandel Bread, I wanted to start with a recipe that had no emotional connection for me.

Armed with binders and cookbooks full of Passover recipes, I searched for something that didn’t seem too intimidating and something that I could offer to bring to the first night’s Seder at my in-laws house.

Most of mom’s recipes weren’t organized in any sort of way. Scraps of paper were scattered throughout her house (on the kitchen island, next to the phone, next to the bed, piled in photo boxes, piled next to cookbooks, scribbled on paper in cookbooks, etc.). Even the recipe boxes just had recipes in them, not separated by category. However, Passover recipes are an entirely different story.

Mom had taken the time to organize most of them. She organized them by category (appetizers, soups, kugels, main dishes, desserts, etc.) in massive binders.

As I flipped through the binders, I noticed one recipe three different times. It must have sounded really good to mom and it sounded pretty yummy to me too: Mushroom, onion, and farfel kugel.

Simple enough, I thought. It was.

I enlisted the hubby’s help again and he was a good sport about helping me prep and prepare the recipe. I made two batches and both turned out well. I’d make again.

The recipe appeared in The Boston Globe in April 2006.

Mushroom, Onion and Farfel Kugel

3              tablespoons canola oil, plus more for greasing the dish

1              large onion, chopped

2              ribs celery, finely chopped

10           ounces white mushrooms, sliced *I used one 16 oz package of Baby Bellas

3 1/2      cups matzo farfel

2              eggs

1              can (10 1/2 ounces) condensed chicken broth

2              teaspoons paprika

1              teaspoon salt

Pinch of black pepper

1              cup boiling water

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

2. In a large skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the excess liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the farfel.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Stir in the broth, paprika, salt, and pepper. Pour this over the farfel mixture. Slowly pour the water over it and let it sit for 10 minutes.

4. Transfer to the dish. Bake, uncovered, for 45 to 50 minutes or until set and golden. Cool slightly before cutting into squares.

Adapted from Julie Sall

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Passover Mandel Bread

Anyone who knew my mother knows she loved all things related to cooking and food. Cooking was one of the many ways she expressed love. Every Passover for as long as I can remember, she’d make a big batch of mandelbread. One bite instantly takes me back to my childhood as I remember helping Mom sprinkle cinnamon/sugar on too many batches to count. But, for as much as I love this mandelbread during Passover – I have never made it myself. Why? I’m not really fond of baking, but mostly it’s because Mom always made it for me. While I was away at college, she made sure a double batch was ready to go back with me after Seder. When I couldn’t get to Maryland during Passover, she’d make a trip up with mandelbread in hand.

Facing my first Passover without her, I knew exactly which of her many recipes I needed to make. Fortunately, she chose the recipe as the one she contributed for an index card collection from my bridal shower. You’ll see she listed the number of servings just as “Amy.”

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[index card now priceless to me]

On the Saturday before the first Seder, I asked my hubby to help me with my first batch. He’s the baker between us and I knew I’d be a crying mess baking alone in the kitchen. Even though my mother made this recipe countless times, I had never seen her do it from start to finish. I could only remember the last part after they were already out of the pan and sliced. So, we followed her instructions as best we could.

I wasn’t sure how to get the loaves out of the pan to slice without them cracking or breaking. I remember Mom always had a few that crumbled or cracked. She would put those aside and we ate them as “quality control” tasters. I loved the broken ones. Those were the only ones we were allowed to eat while she was whipping up multiple batches.

As I sliced them and put them onto the baking trays, not a single slice broke or cracked. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and not a single one. I have to believe that she was watching and helping. Either that, or total beginner’s luck.