Kugelis By Krokys

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2014 Kugelis Cook-Off Champion: Jurate Krokys Stirbys

1st Place Winner Jurate Krokys Stirbys With Chef Georges Perrier

1st Place Winner Jurate Krokys Stirbys
With Chef Georges Perrier

To participate in the Kugelis Cook-Off, I undertook a little bit of research: I studied my mom’s recipe, went online to look at YouTube recipes and demonstrations, looked at a few more Lithuanian cookbook recipes and finally settled on a basic recipe in Lithuanian Traditional Foods published by Baltos Lankos (1998) containing recipes compiled by Birute Imbrasiene. I was most motivated to avoid the greatest fear there could be with kugelis: having the potatoes turn dark.

And so my poor family was my guinea pig: I made various versions playing around with types of potatoes, degrees of draining potatoes, amounts of bacon, fried or raw onions, and time in the oven. Here is my final version which I entered in the Kugelis Cook-Off. I hope it works for you. The hardest part of the baking is to step away from the oven. Although Kugelis will look and smell done at 1 hour baking time, it MUST stay in the oven baking for at least 1hr 15 min. (if a thinner version) to 1 hr 30 min. (if the mixture comes close to the rim).

Kugelis By Krokys (1st Place: 2014 Kugelis Cook-Off)

  • 5 lbs. Pennsylvania Butter Potatoes (Yukon Gold will do)
  • 2 cups scalded milk (scalding the milk helps to distribute the potato starch)
  • 3 brown eggs (I like to use cage-free I think it adds color and flavor and I feel less guilty)
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, finely grated
  • 1 lb. bacon, finely chopped and fried, do not drain fat
  • 1 cup minced ham
  • Salt to taste
  • Butter for the casserole dish
  • Cheesecloth to squeeze out excess moisture from the potatoes

Although I believe that the grated onion quickly applied to the grated potatoes helps to keep the potatoes white, it is important to prepare all of your ingredients in advance and to work quickly so that the potato batter does not darken.

1. Butter the 10” x 16” (thereabouts) casserole dish (I like to use a glass dish) and set aside.

2. Set up your potato grater. I am lucky, I have the electric kind, otherwise, find a couple of people to help you grate, speed is of the essence.

3. Peel your potatoes and submerge them in cold water. Peel your onion, set aside.

4. Measure out the milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan and turn on very low. You will know the milk is scalded when tiny bubbles begin to form along the edges. You can keep an eye on the milk while you are doing other preparation, just don’t forget. Turn off the milk once the bubbles appear. By the way, I used 4% milk.

5. Whisk the eggs and set aside.

6. After you have crisped the bacon, add the ham and mix, and turn off the heat.

7. Set up your cheesecloth so that it sits over a colander which sits over a bowl. You will also need another large bowl in which you will put the squeezed potato mass and into which you will add the other ingredients.

8. Drain the water off of the potatoes. Grate the potatoes. If by hand it must be through the small openings, the potatoes must come out like a fine batter. I suggest that you alternate grating potatoes with grating the raw onion. Same if you are doing it through the electronic grater.

9. Take about ¾ cup of this potato-onion mass and place on the cheesecloth which you then use to squeeze out the excess liquid by hand. I actually squeezed out a lot of the liquid; not all of it but enough to be able to peel off the wet potato-onion mass and place it in the larger bowl. Work quickly.

10. Once you are done with squeezing off the liquid, take the scalded milk and pour over the potatoes and mix with a wooden spoon.

11. Add the whisked eggs, mix.

12. Add the bacon-ham mixture, mix.

13. Add one teaspoon salt, mix.

14. Pour into the buttered casserole dish, and say a prayer as you put it into a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven, the middle of the oven.

15. Plan for 1hr and 30 minutes of baking. If after 1hr. 15min. it looks browned on the top, check with a toothpick in the center. The toothpick should come out completely dry. If not, give it another 10-15 minutes.

We eat Kugelis with sour cream, lots of it. I found that Russet potatoes worked OK but the color was bland. Also, if you don’t have ham that’s ok, but I thought it gave it nice texture. I tried one version with frying the Vidalia onions but I really liked the taste raw onions gave to the kugelis. Good luck!

Kugelis Cook-Off Contest

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Family Fun At Kugelis Cook-Off Fundraiser

Guests Visit Contestant Chefs To Sample Kugelis

Guests Visit Contestant Chefs
To Sample Kugelis And Vote

Kugelis: it’s Lithuania’s comfort food! A decadent concoction of grated potatoes and crispy bacon baked to perfection and served with sour cream, it really doesn’t get any better than this. Kugelis is the standby favorite of Lithuanian households and if you haven’t tried it, you’ll soon understand why.

Hungry yet? Then join us for a Kugelis Cook-Off and taste kugelis from the best of the Philadelphia region’s Lithuanian-American community! Whether you are a chef competing for cash prizes or an attendee feasting and partaking in the festivities, you’ll be supporting the Lithuanian Music Hall Restoration Project, which preserves Lithuanian arts and culture for future generations!

Judges: Writer Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell, Honorary Consul Krista Butvydas Bard, Chef Georges Perrier, and Contestant: Rev. Peter Burkauskas

Judges: Writer Don “Joe Sixpack” Russell, Honorary Consul Krista Butvydas Bard,
Chef Georges Perrier, And
Contestant: Rev. Peter Burkauskas

Guests, you’ll have a chance to sample and savor kugelis baked by every contestant chef. That’s at least 12 slices of fantabulous kugelis! As you contemplate who will win the People’s Choice awards, you’ll experience nuances in flavor and texture among competing family recipes. Plus, you’ll have a chance to meet the chefs and hear their stories before casting your votes for “Best Kugelis,” “Best Table Display,” and “Best to Absorb Lithuanian Beer.” This event is fun for all ages, so bring your entire family!

Contestant chefs, by competing in our Kugelis Cook-Off, you’ll have a chance to win one of three cash prizes and a People’s Choice award! Plus, you’ll be interacting with our celebrity chefs and the area’s most avid kugelis fans as you present your best homemade kugelis. Cash prizes are $200 for first place, $100 for second place, and $50 for third place. We’ll provide you with a table and a chaffing rack. It’s up to you to decorate your table and serve your kugelis to the judges and attendees.

Honorary Consul Krista Butvydas Bard (Judge), Renata Baras Kucas, Kristina Rociunas Volertas (3rd Place Winner), Virgus Volertas (2nd Place Winner), Chef Georges Perrier (Judge), and Jurate Krokys Stirbys (1st Place Winner)

Honorary Consul Krista Butvydas Bard (Judge), Renata Baras Kucas, Kristina Rociunas Volertas (3rd Place Winner), Virgus Volertas (2nd Place Winner), Chef Georges Perrier (Judge), and Jurate Krokys Stirbys (1st Place Winner)


Winners of the 2014 Kugelis Cook-Off:
1st Place: Jurate Krokys Stirbys
2nd Place: Virgus Volertas
3rd Place: Kristina Rociunas Volertas
People’s Choice “Best Kugelis”: Rev. Peter Burkauskas
People’s Choice “Best Table Display”: Joyce and Kestutis Lukas
People’s Choice “Best to Absorb Lithuanian Beer”: Rev. Peter Burkauskas

We are grateful to everyone who participated in 2014’s Kugelis Cook-Off on May 3rd! Our 12 enthusiastic chef contestants were Jurgita Arteoggi, Rev. Peter Burkauskas, Andrius and Vytas Duncia, Joyce and Kestutis Lukas, Dan McIntyre, Angele Puodziunas , Violeta Sadauskiene, Jurate Krokys Stirbys, Dana Surdeniene, Terese Vekteris, Virgus Volertas, and Kristina Rociunas Volertas.

People's Choice "Display" Winners, Birute and Grand Duke Kestutis (aka Joyce and Kestutis Lukas)

People’s Choice “Display” Winners,
Birute And Grand Duke Kestutis
(Aka Joyce And Kestutis Lukas)

Judges were renowned Chef Georges Perrier, award-winning writer Don “Joe Sixpack” Russell, and Honorary Consul Krista Butvydas Bard.

We asked our 1st place winner, what she enjoyed most about the event and for Jurate Krokys Stirbys, the fun started well before the Cook-Off. Initially, Jurate joined the competition out of a sense of duty to her community. However, that feeling of duty quickly faded as the pursuit became a personal challenge. Kugelis wasn’t a big tradition in Jurate’s childhood. Since she hadn’t grown up watching her mother prepare kugelis, she didn’t have a favorite heirloom family recipe. Instead, she challenged herself to create her own. Winning was not on her bucket list, but she also never dreamed of receiving a 1st prize from Georges Perrier! Now that is a bucket list.

1st Place Winner Jurate Krokys Stirbys With Chef Georges Perrier

1st Place Winner Jurate Krokys Stirbys
With Chef Georges Perrier

Throughout the week leading up to the Cook-Off, Jurate experimented with her method and ingredients; baking several iterations of kugelis. As she and her family tasted each version, Jurate kept thinking she could do better and kept tweaking. After a high-calorie week of taste testing at the Stirbys residence, Jurate finally arrived at what she believed was her best entry. While so much about the Kugelis Cook-Off itself was special to Jurate – including the thrill of renowned Chef Georges Perrier tasting and evaluating her kugelis — the personal challenge was best of all! Thanks to Jurate for sharing her winning kugelis recipe with us.

When questioned about his favorite part of the competition, our 2nd place winner, Virgus Volertas responded that he enjoyed the “enthusiasm and excitement this event generated amongst participants and event attendees. The competitors exhibited camaraderie, but hidden below this was a competitive spirit of ‘making Philly’s best kugelis,’ especially when being judged by admired and world renowned chef Georges Perrier, and the notable Don Russell, a.k.a. ‘Joe Sixpack’.”

Rev. Peter Burkauskas Serves His Grandmother's Recipe

Rev. Peter Burkauskas Serves His Grandmother’s Recipe

Two-time People’s Choice winner, Rev. Peter Burkauskas shared his experience: “I was thrilled to be a participant in the ‘Kugelis Cook-Off’ and to share my recipe with so many people! It was an emotional experience to think how honored my grandmother from Zemaitija would be to know that the recipe she had brought from the ‘old country’ and made in her small kitchen in Connecticut was now being made by her grandson and enjoyed by dozens of people in Philadelphia. She would be proud to know that her recipe won First Prize as ‘People’s Choice’ and that her grandson has kept her memory and Lithuanian heritage alive in such a wonderful and tasty way!”

Special thanks to Lietuvėlė.com for their generous raffle prize donation of an authentic Lithuanian potato grater!

Planning is underway for 2015’s Kugelis Cook-Off. The field is open and yours to win! Are you entering?