Lithuanian Kugelis (Bulvių Plokštainis/Potato Cake)
Mention comfort food and Lithuanian kugelis immediately pops into my mind. Like baked macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food for so many people, this is my ultimate comfort food. Try it once and you just might feel the same way. In Lithuania, kugelis is widely popular — appearing in home kitchens and on menus everywhere.
My family has been serving kugelis for decades (likely, centuries) and over the years, we experimented with our recipe. My grandmother’s generation and those before her grated the potatoes and onion by hand. We used to grate everything manually, too, but discovered that a blender accomplishes the same results. Purists probably would disagree with us, but we are pleased with our results.
On the other hand, we studied two other elements of our recipe and after experimentation, decided that they should not be compromised. We tried to make a reduced fat version of kugelis by experimenting with the bacon drippings. Kugelis made without bacon drippings or with less than ¼ cup of them simply is not the same, in our opinion.
Similarly, we conducted our own blind taste test for potato varieties and discovered that potato variety also has a significant impact on kugelis. Red skinned potatoes are by far the best in terms of flavor and texture. Yukon gold are also very good. White, russet, and Idaho potatoes are not good choices for kugelis, in our opinion.
With cooler autumn days ahead, we hope you try our Lithuania kugelis recipe to warm your family!
From the Kitchen of
Emilija Gvazdaitytė Naujalienė, 1886 – 1966
- 5 lbs red potatoes
- 1 lb bacon, partially frozen
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- ½ cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1 TBS flour
- 1 tsp seasoned salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- Sour cream for garnish
Serves 4 – 6 persons as a main course.
Preheat oven to 425°.
Slice the frozen bacon into small ½” pieces. Fry it until very crispy and set this pan of bacon and drippings aside. Do not discard the drippings.
When served, kugelis should be golden brown. To achieve this golden color, work quickly with the potatoes and keep them immersed in cold water. If your raw potatoes are exposed to too much air before baking, your kugelis may turn gray. It will taste fine, but will not look as appealing. Also, processing the onion first and adding the potatoes to the puréed onion helps to prevent the kugelis from graying.
Fill a large bowl halfway with cold water. Peel and rinse the potatoes and then place them in the cold water. Take a few potatoes from the water and roughly dice them. Return them to the cold water. Repeat this process until every potato is diced. Peel and dice the onion.
Remove the bacon from the pan and place it in a large bowl. Reserve the bacon drippings (about ⅜ cup).
Purée the onion in a blender with the milk. Using a slotted spoon or wok skimmer, fill the blender with potatoes and pureé until smooth. Pour this purée over the bacon. Continue puréeing all of the potatoes in the blender using the egg as the liquid for one batch and bacon drippings as the liquid for the other batch.
Stir the mixture in the bowl each time you add purée to it. Sprinkle the seasoned salt, ground pepper, and flour over the purée and stir again.
Pour the potato mixture into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Bake at 425° for 1 hour and 5 minutes. The kugelis is ready to serve when the top is golden brown when it starts pulling away from the sides of the baking pan.
Slice into squares and serve Lithuanian kugelis hot with a dollop of thick sour cream. Gero apetito!