There is a recipe here, but first a story. If you’d like to cut to the chase (and get cooking!) scroll down.
When my father started Kindergarten, he was sent to ESL. As the child of immigrants, he only spoke Yiddish. My grandfather was an orthodox rabbi but my grandmother was the one that ruled the roost. Here they are – pictured some time in the early 60’s, I think.
I grew up in a conservative Jewish household where we watched tv on the weekends, and went out for Chinese food (yes, the non kosher kind). My childhood was not particularly religious although we did observe holidays and Shabbat meals.
But when my grandparents came over for Shabbat, it was a whole other deal. No tv, no turning lights on and off. There is a prohibition against work on Shabbat and lighting a flame, turning appliances on and off, constitutes work. My grandparents kept kosher so we ate from special, separate dishes and/or paper plates. Quite often, we ate my grandmother’s “Cholent” which is a popular stew made on shabbat. My father waxes on about Cholent to this day. It was such a staple of his youth.
Cholent is cooked slowly over a low flame. When my father was a child, early on Friday morning his mother and her friends would bring the prepped Cholent pot to a local bakery where the ovens were kept lit/warm all weekend long. They’d leave their stew with the bakery to cook slowly while they went about their weekend business, and would collect it back up for lunch on Saturday. Other women did the slow cooking at home.
Hanging over my stove in my own kitchen is a large platter aka a “blech”. That’s a hard “ch” like you’re clearing your throat. My parents unearthed this fabulous platter in upstate NY many years ago. It’s basically a giant decorative hotplate that a Jewish housewife would have placed on top of her wood stove over Shabbat, and used to slow cook her Cholent, without having to light a flame and break the rules of the sabbath.
My friend Carol Schiller from Cozi Family recently shared her family Cholent recipe with me and I knew that this would make for a nice treat/surprise for my dad. So I cooked up a batch last Friday. It was delicious! It’s perfect hearty winter weather fare, also perfect for a busy weekend because once you get it going, it’s done.
Note: I started mine in a large saute pan and switched to a large casserole but you can do the whole recipe in a large casserole or dutch oven with a tight lid such as a Le Crueset. You can certainly do this in a crockpot, but I’m much happier with the results I’ve gotten from using a casserole in the oven. The casserole pictured below is made out of terracotta and cooks very gently and evenly.
Brown 1 chopped onion and a few chopped garlic cloves in oil.
Push aside and add 2lbs or more of beef stew meat and brown that too.
Note: This recipe is also delicious made with lamb or veal
- 2 celery sticks cut in quarters
- 4-5 cut up potatoes
- 1-2 large cut up tomatoes (canned works too)
- 1/2 C pearled barley
- 1+ 1/2 C mixed dried beans (kidney, navy, pinto)
- 2TB paprika (do not skip this)
- 1+1/2 Tb salt
I used canned tomatoes and added some carrots in as well. Toss in the browned meat/onions, toss in the veggies, just throw it all in the pot!
Cover with 8+ Cups of water almost to the top of the pot and bring just to a boil
Transfer immediately to a preheated 250 degree oven for 6 hours.
If it gets too thick, you can add water after 4hours, (and when reheating for lunch the next day).
Serve with challah and red wine and plan on going to bed early!
This Cholent recipe was Shabbat approved!
Note: You can leave this in the oven on warm till Saturday. Just add water. It will get less soupy and thicker as it cooks. My father loves it on the second day and says it is more delicious. My mother calls it paste. You can be the judge of next day Cholent yourself!