Every once in a while I will be at an otherwise lovely Shabbat meal, when, with no warning, I’m passed a sticky, reddish-pink mixture with a golden crumb top. It plops onto my plate next to a garlicky vegetable and as I lean in to take a bite, I get a whiff of cinnamon and the unmistakable hint of sweetness. Sure enough, I’m eating something that smacks of sugar and that’s when the confusion sets in. It was labeled by the server as a side dish, often called a kugel, served alongside the main course and yet, it tasted like a dessert. If this has happened to you, you’ll know that I speak of the “cranberry crunch,” this sweet mixture of cranberries and sugar, sometimes apples, with a crumb topping, that has been deemed suitable as a side dish when in reality, it’s simply a fruit crisp. I’d have no problem if it was served as dessert, perhaps with a scoop of ice cream (or pareve ice cream as the case may be), but the fact that it is being sold as a legitimate accompaniment to meat, cholent, salad, and potatoes, baffles me.
The term kugel, originates from the Middle High German term for “ball.” Originally, a new German practice arose to steam dumplings in a clay pot called a kugeltopf, where topf meant “jar or pot,” instead of directly in a stew. This method of cooking turned the dumpling batter into a pudding of sorts and it changed the nature of the dish. Kugel became the generic name for these puddings and with the introduction of sugar in 17th-century Europe, sweet kugels became popular. Obviously, the makeup of the cranberry crunch kugel does not resemble the puddings from dumpling dough of yore, in fact, it doesn’t include all the base ingredients of eggs, starch, and fat (without additional liquid). And yet, a kugel it is. Perhaps it is this designation of a kugel that people assume it’s a sensible side dish.
But that’s not an excuse. This iteration of cranberry crunch kugel has no business sitting next to my cholent, so I decided that it was time the recipe got a makeover, one that would transform the dish into something savory and healthier. The result is a side dish that is an excellent accompaniment to meat or other proteins, and will leave enough room for dessert, appropriately served afterward, of course.
Not Your Bubbe’s Cranberry Crunch
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
20 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
2 cups red wine
6 sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon wheat bran
1/4 cup margarine (I use Earth Balance but you can also use butter), cut in small pieces
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Heat olive oil in saucepan and sauté garlic until it begins to turn golden.
- Add cranberries and sauté for 1-2 minutes until begin to slightly soften (if using frozen, this may take a few more minutes for the cranberries to defrost in the pot).
- Add thyme, sugar, and wine and bring to a boil.
- Once at a boil, cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
- Combine the flour, bran, and salt in a bow, the cut in the butter until all the pieces are well broken up. The topping should be crumbly but not dry.
- Once the cranberry filling has thickened (it should not be liquidy but have a jam-like consistency), season with salt and pepper to taste and pour mixture into a greased 8×8 pan and sprinkle topping on top.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until topping is golden.
Not Your Bubbe’s Cole Slaw
Not Your Bubbe’s Cheese and Spinach Blintzes
Not Your Bubbe’s Chocolate and Cinnamon Babka Cupcakes