My resolution for the New Year is to make more cholent.
Cholent is the traditional Sabbath stew, assembled and put in the oven (or on the stove, or in a crock pot) on Friday before the Sabbath, then cooked at a low temperature until Sabbath lunch.
I made one for Rosh Hashana, and remembered what a difference a good cholent can make in your life.
Having a big pot of stew cooking all night and day perfumes your house, whets your appetite for hours., Cholent is gastronomic foreplay. It demands that you take time on Saturday for a big meal. No errands. No Home Depot. No running off to a movie. It demands you invite friends over: try making a cholent for two, or even four. And it demands you slow down and relax the rest of the afternoon—cholent demands a post-meal nap. It is healthy eating, but it is not light eating.
These are all good things as far as I’m concerned—good smells, good food, long meals, a good nap—and cholent is the Way.
I prefer a Moroccan style cholent, called a dafina, or the more general Sephardic style, called Hamin. Both have more intricate spicing than Ashkenazic. Keep in mind: whichever you choose, this is as easy as cooking gets. If you can throw clothes in a suitcase, you can throw ingredients in a pot, and that’s cholent.
Here’s my recipe:
1 pound white beans, soaked overnight and drained
2 heads garlic, peeled
2 onions, peeled and sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and cut in 2 ” chunks
2 yams, peeled and cut in 2 ” chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut in 2 ” chunks
1 t. cumin
1 t. tumeric
1/4 t. cinnamon
1 t. paprika
1 T. salt
1 t. freshly ground pepper
2 pounds brisket
2 pounds lamb or beef bone (or shortribs)
1 c. rice, wrapped loosely in cheesecloth
3 T. olive oil
1 pound ground turkey,lamb, beef and or chicken
2 t. ras el-hanout (Moroccan spice mixture)
Mix ground meat with two eggs and ras-el hanout and 1 t. salt. Roll in log, wrap in foil or cheesecloth and seal tightly. Drizzle olive oil over rice.
In a very large oven and stove proof pot, heat 3 T. olive oil until hot. Add the brisket and sear on all sides until a crust develops. Remove, pour off excess fat, and deglaze with some water. Place half the beans in the pot. Add half the garlic. Lay in the brisket, the ground meat loaf, the rest of the beans, the rice, the vegetables, the eggs and the spices. Add water to go 3/4 up to the top. Bring to boil then simmer one hour. Cover with tight-fitting lid. Place in oven preheated to 250 degrees.
Cook overnight, at least 8 hours. Check twice or so to make sure water is still at 3/4 level. Serve hot, offering each guest a little of everything. Great with some harissa on the side.
Serves 15 very hungry people
For a vegetarian version, leave out the meat. No one will starve.