Cholent, (צולנט) a food of ashkenazi Jews, is a type of stew (or stewing) that has simmered over a very low flame or inside a slow oven (set to a low-heat temperature) or crock pot for many hours (often up to 24 hours or more) before being served on plates or in bowls on shabbat (the jewish sabbath).

back in the days the uncooked cholent was brought to the local baker before sunset on fridays. he would put the mixture in his oven, which he always kept fired, and families would come by to pick up their baked cholent saturday mornings. today, cholent can be made either in the oven in low temperature or on hot plates.
according to judaism one is prohibited to cook or light any kind of fire on shabbat but can keep previously-cooked/baked and prepared food warm, if it is placed on a covered fire before dusk on friday. dishes were created in order to accommodate these rules and cholent was one of them. i found that making a successful cholent is not an easy task, due to the very long cooking time the dish has a tendency to dry. this was my third attempt, and i have to admit i finally got it right except for one thing, the meat was too lean. i have used a cut from the neck, but i think my butcher cleaned it from fat while he was cutting it into cubes. the cubes were very "red" and lacked the marble texture. the neck is a good cut for long cooked stews because it is fatty, breaks up nicely and does not become stringy as most cuts do. the advantage of fatty meat is to add flavor and juiciness. i have also used beef bone morrows cut into 3 pieces. these fatty bones help prevent the stew from sticking to the bottom, as well as enhance the flavor. unlike my previous attempts, this time i added boiling water every few hours. i even woke up at 5am to add water. honestly, i was already awake, the smell that spread in my apartment was amazing, i could not sleep even if i wanted too. there are different ways of organizing the ingredients inside the pot and they all work, but once the cholent is ready take everything out of the pot and serve it mixed together so it will all blend nicely.
this dish is so heavy serving it with a nice juicy salad is a must. oh, and prepare to go back to sleep once you are done. what a lovely way to spend one cold saturday.

10 medium potatoes peeled and cut in half
1 pound dry white beans soaked in water for at least 12 hours
1/2 pound dry barley also soaked in water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large onions cut into 4
2 pounds beef chunks profitably neck cut into 1 inch cubes
4 beef marrow bones 3 inch in hight
7 boiled eggs
1 tsp honey
salt and pepper
use a big metal pot with no plastics handles, because it will melt in the oven.
soak dry beans and barley in water for at least 12 hours. keep adding water as needed.
use fresh beef. neck if possible, and not lean
preheat oven to 320 degrees.
stir fry meat cubes with some of the oil. set aside.
stir fry onions till golden with the rest of the oil and set aside.
organizing the pot:
put bone marrows at the bottom of the pot then onions, half the amount of the potatoes and the beans (without the water), and on top of that the meat. add the rest of the beans and the potatoes. that should cover 3/4 of the pot.
add water to cover half of the pot.
melt honey in a glass of boiling water and add to the pot.
organize the eggs on top of everything and fill the rest of the pot with water till it covers all the ingredients.
add salt and pepper and cover with lid.
on medium heat bring pot to a boil.
transfer pot to the oven. make sure it is fully closed.
after few hours (if you start cooking at 8pm your first check should be at midnight) boil water in a kettle take out the pot quickly and cover ingredients with water. cover pot and return to the oven.
lower heat to 265 degrees.
in the morning, wake up early (7am), boil water in a kettle and cover the ingredients. return to the oven covered.
raise heat to 340 degrees.
2 hours before you eat check the thickness of the sauce, and add water accordingly. you want a nice thick juicy sauce. i ended up covering the ingredients again, but it is a matter of preferences. it will come with practice.
the cholent should be ready at around noon. transfer to a large bowl and mix slowly, discard marrow bones and adjust seasoning. serve hot with a nice bowl of salad.

*the amount of the ingredients is not so important. add more of what you like better, if it beans potatoes or meat.
** cholent might not have an appealing look, but i promise you it tastes wonderful.

No comments: