Yapchik (potato kugel with meat): The ‘Hungarian cholent’

(Emanuelle Lee)

by Emanuelle Lee

This recipe originally appeared on The Nosher.

Yapchik is made up of two layers of golden, crispy potato cake — very similar to a kugel — that sandwich a layer of meat. As the fall days get colder, it will welcome you and your guests home like a hug, and warm you up from the inside out. Yapchik has been referred to as a “Hungarian cholent” because it is traditionally cooked in the oven overnight and, while my recipe is a faster version, I have included instructions below for how to do this. 

Developing this recipe made me feel closer to the Hungarian grandfather I never knew and brought back memories of the cooking my paternal grandmother spoiled me with as a kid. She celebrated family by always making sure each family member’s favorite dish was available to them — it’s amazing to think of how much work she put into every family meal.

Her cooking methods were unorthodox. Like most Jewish grandmothers, she had an innate sense of what her food needed, despite having no recipe or measurement in sight. I like the idea that my two grandparents came from different sides of the world — from Hungary and Britain — who would have dined on much different cuisines and would have been able to connect over the flavors of this hybrid dish. I think of them both as the yapchik bubbles and crisps, filling the air of my little apartment with its hearty aroma. 

2 medium white onions, very finely chopped
8 large russet potatoes
1 pound flanken steak, cut into small cubes
6 eggs
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Telma onion soup powder (optional)
black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

2. Season the meat with a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan and sear the meat on all sides. Set aside and leave to cool slightly. This stage is optional but adds a lot of flavor to the dish.

3. Peel the potatoes and shred them with the larger side of a grater or on the grate blade of a food processor.

4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, 3/4 cup olive oil, water and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Add the grated potato, finely chopped onions, onion soup powder and seared meat. Mix well.

5. Pour the mixture into an oval or rectangular baking dish (approximately 9 by 12 inches).

6. Bake for 3 hours uncovered.

7. For the overnight version: Repeat steps 1-5. Bake at 400 F. for 40 minutes uncovered, then reduce the temperature to 190 F. and tightly cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake for another 6-8 hours. If you want the top to be crispy, bake uncovered for the last hour of baking.

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