Have you ever made cholent? There are about as many ways to make this slow cooked stew as there are to spell Hanukkah. As in, a lot.
My secret ingredient? Wine of course. And love. But mostly wine.
Cholent is a low simmered stew of beef, root vegetables and beans and typically started pre-Shabbat, and finished 12-15 hours later in time for a warm meal. Well played, ancestors. The only problem is that often, the meal isn’t worth waiting for. The meat can be chewy and dry, and the broth flavorless. How could I unlock the secrets of this ancient dish?
Is that an egg in there? You betcha! I adding this Sephardic twist to mine. Because meaty eggs are never a bad addition.
Depending on your background and preferences, it can be sweet or savory, thick or brothy. What kind of beans? Potatoes, yay or nay? Carrots? Barley? Eggs? (Yes!) What spices? I’m stressing just thinking about it.
- 2 cups navy beans (pinto beans, chickpeas, black beans, all work)
- 2-3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 2 pounds chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes, seasoned lightly with salt and cracked black pepper
- 1-pound marrow bones (optional)
- 2 white onions, cut into thin slices
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, halved (waxy potatoes hold up best to the long cooking time.
- 1 cup carrots, sliced
- 6 eggs
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon salt, plus more for seasoning after cooking
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- Pinch cayenne
- ¼ cup minced parsley, for garnish
- The day before cooking, pick through the beans discarding any stones. Rinse well, and cover with covering at least by 2 inches in a large pot. Soak for one day.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
- In a large, heavy bottomed Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil over medium high heat and brown meat a few pieces at a time, about 2-3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan, because the meat will not brown properly. Repeat with remaining meat and set aside.
- Add the marrow bones and brown about five minutes. Set aside.
- Lower heat to medium and add more oil if needed. Sauté onions while stirring for 7 minutes, or until slightly browned and wilted. Then add garlic and sauté another minute.
- Pour wine over onion mixture and deglaze by stirring onions and scraping off any pieces stuck to the bottom. Then add the meat and marrow bones back in.
- Drain the beans and add on top of the meat. Top with potatoes, carrots and eggs.
- Add just enough water to cover the mixture and then add seasonings through cayenne. Do not stir- stirring will break up beans.
- Bring to a light simmer and place in the oven. Slow bake for 4-6 hours or more. Many people do theirs overnight. (Safety first!)
- Your cholent is ready when meat is very tender and liquid has thickened up slightly. If you want a thicker stew, remove cover in oven or simmer on the stovetop for the last 30 minutes or so. Season with more salt to taste, though mine didn’t need any. If you are keeping the Sabbath, please obey your own customs when it comes to adding spices on Shabbat.
- Peel eggs and place cholent in bowls. Garnish with parsley and serve.
This recipe and even more tips originally appeared on The Jewish Week!