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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cholent or Cholnt or Tcholent or Schulent or Hamin - but Cholent by any Other Name is Perfect for Shabbos or any Cold Winter Weekend - Updated Recipe

This is an easy recipe- the active part is about 35 minutes. This recipe is for 10 people, it is easily adjusted as you like. Cholent Recipe - partially from our cousin Chenya Wasilisi, partially  from my mom's memory of how her mom, Meryl Bayroff, made Cholent. Also there are bits and pieces from lots of other people.   
I loved researching Cholent in cookbooks and on the internet. It has a great history. Cholent has been around for thousands of years and according to The Jewish Magazine adding the egg has always been a special part of it. All those years ago people would slowly cook it buried in embers for the same 18 hours we cook it now. All the flavors would mingle and merge slowly for a delicious Shabbos meal. Later, women would put their Cholent together on Friday mornings and carry their pots (often copper pots, sealed with a flour and water paste) to the local baker on Friday before sundown.  Dad would pick it up on the way back from Shul (the synagogue) on Saturday early evening for the Shabbos meal.
Because this is an old recipe, we now use a lot more meat in Cholent now than in days past. Probably the meat was more for flavoring and the beans for substance, as in most peasant or rustic type dishes gone gourmet, like Cassoulet, the French cousin of Cholent. Cholent hasn't quite gone gourmet the way Cassoulet has, but it has a strong, loving following. When I told my friends that I was cooking it for Rosh Hashana, those who knew Cholent lit up! To know it, is to love it. There are National Cholent Competitions in Jerusalem, like the Chili competitions in the US. My sister Meryl even found an International Cholent Society page on Facebook! As of the day I joined it there were 274 members!
I don't have a slow-cooker, but I love cooking in my Dutch Oven, so I doubt I would ever use one. It is your choice, no advice there other than it works well in the Dutch Oven. The only big NO-NO is about the beans. Do not use canned beans. You'll get a bunch of mush.
Mom says that in my grandmother's recipe, rather than adding the eggs, she made a small potato kugle and put it in the middle of the Cholent where it cooked submerged in a bath of flavors. Recipes for Cholent are as varied as Jewish people. Each represents their journeys, traditions, and past.  Just thinking about Cholent, and watching my family eat it, makes me feel like a part of generations past.

Update December 24, 2013:  Thanks to Jennifer Aguglario, I decided to try using a slow cooker to make the Cholent.  I'm sold!  I still love my beautiful Dutch Ovens, but for Cholent and similar recipes, it is the slow cooker from now on. I'll still browned the meat first, and a tip from Kemp Minife (my neighbor and chef from both Gourmet Magazine and Epicurious Blog) is to add the tomato paste  and crushed tomatoes to the frying pan after the meat is browned, during the deglazing.  I think that I will also add the onions and garlic - just for a few minutes.  Then I'll add them to the slow cooker and walk away.

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