Amerikaner Yapchik – The Ultimate Jewish Food Reinterpreted

Passover is right around the corner, and Jewish cooks everywhere are planning their menus for the holiday. Many families have recipes that are generations-old, lovingly prepared year after year.  Even with the time-honored favorites, there is always room to reinterpret a classic recipe.

yapzik

No one can exactly say where yapchik (or yapzik) originates. The one certain thing is that it is Eastern European in origin, and a recipe that appears on the Sabbath and Yom Tov table of many a Hasidic family. The traditional recipe calls for strips of flanken to be placed in the middle of potato kugel mixture, covered, and baked in the oven for 8 to 12 hours.

DH and I did not grow up Hasidic – we became more religious after we got married and had children, deciding this was how we wanted to raise our family. As a result, at times we experience what I call ‘comedies of error’. This is one of them.

It started innocently enough – I was making potato kugel for Sukkot, and a friend of ours from our neighborhood synagogue sent us stuffed cabbage. Not wanting to look selfish and any less a balabusta (homemaker) I immediately offered to send over a potato kugel after it was done. She didn’t want that, but if I was making yapchik, she would be delighted to have one.

A quick consultation with DH told me that yapchik was potato kugel with meat inside. Considering what I know of cooking, and how I make potato kugel, it only made sense to me to put in pre-cooked meat. After all – if you put in raw meat, and only cook it for 2 or 3 hours (how long I cook my potato kugel depending on time) there is no way it would be cooked. So in my mind, it had to be deli.  Needless to say, she was full of compliments after the holiday, but informed me this was not yapchik as she and her husband was born and raised with.

But it is now a staple on many a Yom Tov in my house, and it a perfect, lighter meat dish. It is meat and potato kugel all in one – serve with a salad and you have a full meal.

Ingredients:

  • 10 lbs Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced for a food processor
  • 3 large Vidalia onions, also peeled and sliced for a food processor
  • 9 large eggs
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt plus a little to cover the top
  • 4 tsp black pepper plus a little to cover the top
  • 6 oz navel pastrami
  • 6 oz cooked deli turkey breast
  • 6oz 1st cut corned beef

To Prepare: 

Using the kugel blade (shredder) on your food processor, process your onions and potatoes, starting with an onion and alternating between potatoes and onions. (This helps keep the potatoes white.) There will be a lot of juice – drain as much as possible off now, but you will have to drain it again later. Add eggs, salt, pepper, and oil and mix very well. I would say use your hands (I do) to ensure complete mixing, but you could use a spatula or wooden spoon as well.

To assemble:

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Taking large handfuls of the mixture, press gently to drain excess liquid and make an even layer in the bottom 1/3 of the disposable pan. Add your deli meat, laying the peices neatly so the entire area is covered. (I did pastrami, turkey, corned beef, but you can pick your own deli meats and combos. Just make sure you lay the meat evenly and so the entire surface areas is covered.) Make an even layer of potato mixture over the meat, pressing gently to remove excess liquid, til the pan is filled.

Take a bit of salt and pepper and sprinkle a fine layer over the top of the kugel. Bake in preheated oven for 2-3 hours, or until a knife inserted comes out clean and very hot to the touch. Turn off oven, leave in for another hour or so to cool slightly.
Yield one regular 9”x 13” disposable pan and a bit extra for a small regular potato kugel (6” round) OR one deep 9”x 13”disposable pan)

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11 Responses to Amerikaner Yapchik – The Ultimate Jewish Food Reinterpreted

  1. I love it that you refer to the shredder blade as that kugel blade! That is great, and this kugel sounds delicious.

  2. Fern Sanders says:

    Could this be done in a heavy enamel pot on a blech instead of a cholent? It looks wonderful.

    • sarahklinkowitz says:

      I never tried it so I couldn’t say. I imagine for something like that you’d want to use raw beef, since the pot on a blech is closer to the flame overnight? That would be my guess.

  3. I looooooove that you layered this with pastrami, turkey and corned beef. Brilliant!

  4. never heard of this! gotta try it. as a sephardi, i probably won’t be able to resist layering some kibbes in there, too.

  5. Manya says:

    I place meAt at bottom of pan and cover with potatoes and onions that have salt and pepper… No eggs. I just cover very tightly with foil and place in oven an hour before shabbos at 350 then lower to 200 till lunch. It is delicious! My family calls it Geribbeneh chulent. I also freeze after assembling for chol hamoed. I have also substituted turkey thighs for beef.

  6. Would you believe it if I told you I’ve never had yapchik in my life? I only heard of it this year! Even though I grew up eating all sorts of Eastern European foods, my grandmother never made it! Her speciality is zucchini potato kugel. Maybe she was trying to be healthy!

  7. Oh my it sounds and looks so good!! I heard of it many times just never made it. You make it sound easy, we will give it a try!

  8. ronnievfein says:

    And this is how great recipes are born! By being inventive. I really loved your story and the yapchik — I never heard of that! — looks wonderful. Meat, potatoes, eggs and onions? I’m in!

  9. lilmisscakes says:

    This sounds amazing! I make mine with flanken and kishka, but this is a great variation!

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