Cholent is a traditional Jewish stew that is cooked slowly over a low heat or in a slow cooker, typically overnight, in preparation for the Sabbath (Shabbat) meal. It is a significant dish for Shabbat because it allows observant Jews to enjoy a warm, hearty meal without the need for cooking or lighting fires on the Sabbath, which is prohibited according to Jewish law. The only way to have soups or stews is if they don’t ever get off the heat until ready to serve, so a slow cooked stew is just perfect.
On a deeper level, long ago there was a strong, heretical movement that among other things did not allow hot food on Shabbat. For many Jews this was a not only a means of having a delicious meal on Shabbat but also a way to prove their commitment to the Talmud.
The slow cooking process of cholent allows the flavors to meld together, resulting in a rich and comforting dish that is often enjoyed for lunch on Shabbat. It is a symbol of the sanctity of the day and a reminder to focus on rest, relaxation, and spending quality time with family and loved ones.
Here’s a basic recipe for a Shabbos cholent:
- 1 cup dry beans (such as kidney beans, pinto beans, or navy beans), soaked overnight and drained
- 1 pound beef stew meat or bone-in chicken pieces
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup pearl barley (optional)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 4 cups water or beef/chicken broth
- Preheat your oven to 225°F (110°C) or set your slow cooker to low heat.
- In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, and sauté until they become soft and translucent.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, paprika, salt, black pepper, and cumin. Toss the beef stew meat or chicken pieces in the flour mixture until they are coated.
- Add the floured meat or chicken to the skillet and cook until browned on all sides.
- In a slow cooker or an oven-safe pot with a tight-fitting lid, layer the soaked and drained beans, potatoes, carrots, and browned meat or chicken.
- Pour the sautéed onion and garlic mixture over the ingredients in the pot.
- Add the pearl barley (if using) and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
- Pour the water or broth over the ingredients, making sure they are mostly covered.
- Cover the pot with the lid and place it in the preheated oven or set the slow cooker to low heat. Cook for at least 8 hours, overnight, until the cholent is thick and the flavors have melded together. If you’re doing this the traditional style to serve at a Shabbat lunch, set it up close to the start of Shabbat and don’t take it off the heat until ready to serve at lunch
- Before serving, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. You can garnish the cholent with fresh parsley or chopped green onions for added flavor.
Note: Cholent is a versatile dish, and you can customize it by adding other ingredients such as barley, kishke (a stuffed sausage-like dish), or additional vegetables according to your taste preferences.
Enjoy the warm and comforting flavors of this traditional Shabbos cholent as you celebrate the Sabbath with your loved ones!