You’ve probably been wondering what kind of food Lithuanians like to eat, and the answer to that question is potatoes, bacon, and sour cream.
One of my favorite Lithuanian recipes which incorporates all three of these ingredients is “kugelis*” – a hearty potato casserole that can be served as a side dish or main meal. It’s the kind of thing you’ll want to make on a weekend afternoon because it requires a bit of time and elbow grease, but it’s the ultimate in comfort food and I guarantee it will pay off in the end.
Alrighty then! Let’s put on our kerchiefs, roll up our sleeves, and get to work!
First, pre-heat your oven to 350° Fahrenheit. If you live in a place where they use Celsius, (like Lithuania), consider moving to the U.S.A. We also have Costco and buffalo wings.
While the oven is pre-heating, invite your friend V over for dinner and ask her to peel and grate five pounds of potatoes (preferably Idaho or Yukon Gold) using the fine side of a box-type grater.
Don’t even think about using powdered potatoes or frozen hash browns. I know you didn’t take my advice about using fresh organic ginger root for the Happiness Tea, but this time you better follow directions or you’ll regret it. The only shortcut I will allow is for you to run those hard-to-grate potato end pieces through a KitchenAid mixer attachment. We are not making knuckle casserole here. You will also need to grate one whole onion into the mix, and I will permit you to do this using the KitchenAid, as well.
I’m reasonable like that.
It’s going to take your friend V awhile to peel and grate those potatoes and the last thing you want is for them to oxidize and turn an ugly hammer and sickle gray in the meantime, so after they’ve been peeled, keep the potatoes submerged in a bowl of cool water and as you’re grating them, either finely crush several (four or five) vitamin C tablets into the bowl or periodically squeeze generous amounts of lemon juice in and stir.
While the potatoes are being grated, dice and sauté about 3/4 pounds of bacon until it’s crispy/chewy, but not burned. I hate to be the one to have to tell you this, but you’re going to have to reserve the fat. When the potatoes and one small onion have been grated, mix in the bacon and the reserved bacon fat.
You can do it.
Next, beat up four eggs, 3/4 stick of melted butter, 3 tsp. kosher salt, and one cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, you can substitute regular milk mixed with one teaspoon of lemon juice, just let it sit for a few minutes so the magical chemical reaction that turns it into buttermilk can occur) and add it to the potato/onion/bacon mixture. Stir to combine.
Pour the whole shebang into a well greased 9×13 casserole dish, like so:
. . . And bake at 350° for at least 90 minutes, or until golden brown. (A toothpick or wooden skewer, when inserted into the middle, should come out clean.)
While the kugelis is baking, dice a small onion and sauté it with a pat of butter. When the onion is translucent, add the remaining 1/4 pound of – you guessed it! – diced bacon, and cook it until it’s chewy/crispy. This will be your topping. If you are a heart patient or an ascetic, you can drain the fat, just know that I will be over here in Cleveland judging away.
Once it’s totally baked (snort, snort, chuckle, chuckle), allow the kugelis to cool for about 15 minutes, then cut into hearty pieces and serve topped with the sauteed onion/bacon mixture and a cup dollop of sour cream. I would show you a picture of this step, but by the time I remembered to document it, the evidence had been eaten, and it was delicious.
We served our kugelis with a pinot noir and salad of greens, roasted beets, sliced pears, walnuts and Gorgonzola with a lemon vinaigrette. But you could also very easily eat it with a beer wearing pajamas in front of the TV.
It’s really, really good, and the leftovers are phenomenal fried up in sticks for breakfast the next day. (This is what is actually meant by the term, “Breakfast of Champions.”)
Here’s the list of ingredients:
- 5 lbs. potatoes, peeled and grated (Okay, fine. You can grind them with a food processor, but I will deduct points)
- 2 medium onions (one grated, and a smaller one diced for the topping)
- 1 lb. bacon, fried and crumbled (3/4 for the kugelis, 1/4 for the topping)
- 3/4 stick of butter, melted
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk (can substitute plain milk with 1 teaspoon lemon juice mixed in)
- 3 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 lemon, quartered (to be used as needed to squeeze into potato mixture to prevent oxidization) or 4-5 finely crushed vitamin C tablets
- Fresh ground pepper to taste for the sauteed bacon-onion topping
- Sour cream
* Kugelis is not to be confused with the always popular Jewish “kugel,” which is often made with noodles and tends to be on the sweet side.Subscribe to the blog. (It's free!)