This Rosh Hashanah, pay homage to the 5,776-year-old culture responsible for some of the greatest comfort foods ever. There’s the bagel and lox, braised brisket and the ever-versatile (and often unsung) kugel, like this sweet-and-savory version from Shaya restaurant in New Orleans.
Kugel with Fig Custard
½ cup salt
1 pound dried pasta shells
24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups whole milk
1½ tablespoons salt
½ cup sugar
Zest of one orange, divided
2 tablespoons baharat spice mix
2 sprigs thyme, chopped fine, plus extra leaves for garnish
½ pound fresh black figs, cut into ½-inch cubes, plus 4 figs, halved, for garnish
Pistachio streusel topping (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 325˚F.
Bring 8 quarts of water and ½ cup salt to a boil in a large pot. Add pasta shells and cook for 10–11 minutes, until al dente. Strain and set pasta aside (do not rinse).
In a blender, mix the cream cheese and whole milk until smooth. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, salt, sugar, half the orange zest, baharat and chopped thyme. Pour in the cream cheese mixture and fold in the chopped figs.
Toss cooked pasta into fig custard mixture. Place in a 12 x 12 inch casserole dish. Sprinkle with pistachio streusel and top with a few halved figs. Bake for 50 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden brown. Sprinkle thyme leaves and orange zest over the kugel prior to serving. Serves 8.
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
½ cup all purpose flour
¹⁄₃ cup light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup pistachios, chopped
Pinch of salt
Place butter, flour, sugar, pistachios and salt in a bowl and mash with the bottom of a fork until a coarse and even crumb develops.
Opt for an opulent Israeli white wine, like Kishor’s 2013 white blend, made with Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc from Western Galilee. “The Viognier is weighty enough to stand up to the kugel’s decadence, yet [the wine] keeps a spine of acid from the quirky addition of Sauvignon Blanc,” says Peggy Keplinger, Shaya’s beverage manager.