Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cholent


This is a special post for us because it features Baba (Giz's mom, Psychgrad's grandmother). We've written about Baba a few times more recently. Baba probably deserves credit/blame for our food obsessions. A visit to Baba's is never without food of some sort, even if you're not the slightest bit hungry. I'm sure my baba would not think that this recipe is as good as hers, but it is something that we wanted to share with you guys. In the video, you can watch Baba talk about the tradition behind this dish.



Before we even get into what this is - I can in all honesty say that the picture does this dish absolutely no justice. Cholent is a typical old country Jewish dish that was made on Fridays by the orthodox, taken to the shtetl's (small town) communal oven and baked sometimes as long as 24 hours and then became the warm Sabbath dinner. Pronounciation can be either choo-lent or chO-lent. If one were orthodox, it was forbidden to ignite flame or in modern version - turn on the stove. To this day there are orthodox Jews who adhere strictly to this practise.

For as many east European shtetls that existed, there were probably as many different variations of this celebration dish. Most had some variation of beans included in the mix. My grandmother, who in fact came from one of these small shtetls in Poland brought with her the family recipe. Potatoes were plentiful and beans not so much. To have some meat to include with your cholent was considered a luxury. We don't make this dish very often but it's one of those recipes that we'll hear about forever.



This video should give you an idea of how difficult it is to get a clear recipe from Baba. "You take potatoes and you grind them. You put in some oil and beef and salt and pepper and mix it up and cover it and put some paper to protect it. And you go to the baker...." Ok great - thanks Baba, I'll get right on making that recipe. Next thing you know, I'll have a combination of mush with burnt newspaper on top of it.

Ingredients

10 lbs peeled and grated potatoes
1 large grated onion
short ribs - the more the merrier - 5-8 ribs
a sprinkle of corn oil
salt and pepper to taste

The one thing you're probably noticing is that there's no exact recipe for cholent. As Baba would say, "if 10 lbs of potatoes is too much, so use a little less". If you can figure out how many that feeds, you're much smarter than I am.

Process:

1. Prepare a roasting pan by spraying the inside.
(Note: I have never sprayed the roaster before but then have faced a cleanup nightmare)
2. Peel and grate potatoes (don't drain away the liquid that's formed)



3. Grate the onion and add it to the potatoes



4. Cut the short ribs to serving size pieces and add them to the potato mixture raw



5. Mix everything together and add some oil for moisture (1/4 cup at the most)
6. Add salt and pepper to taste
7. Bake in 325 F oven, cover on or tightly wrapped with aluminum foil for at least 4 hours stirring your mixture every 1 1/2 hrs or so. If the mixture looks a little dry, just add a bit of oil.



A crust will form on the top (the absolute best part of the whole dish)



We're submitting this to the Apple & Thyme event celebrating mothers and grandmothers.

StumbleUpon

17 comments:

Aran said...

anything that is from a grandmother and that has to cook for 24 hrs must be out of this world!! and short ribs... hmmm... they must be falling off the bone... divine!!

Kevin said...

This is the first that I have heard of Cholent. I like the sound of slow roasting the ribs while covered in potatoes and onions. I would imagine that the potatoes help keep the meat nice and moist while cooking.

Ben said...

Oh! Baba is just lovely. How many generations of cooks do we have now in this blog? That is just amazing! Hehehe

Peter M said...

This kind of stuff is gold! I wish my grandparents were alive to document stories & anecdotes like this.

Look at her (Baba)...she was the center of attention and loved it.

People, listen to what older people have to say...they have a lot to say and for us to learn from.

Finally, in Greece, some villages still will bake family's lunch in their ovens as the older homes couldn't accomodate ovens.

noble pig said...

Wow! Never did I think I would go to a site and see a cholent dish posted. Never! My husband who is Jewish made this for me for the first time last Mother's Day and I loved it, especially the tradition behind it. His was very different though using barley and not potatoes. Now I need him to make it again. Thank you so much for leading me here!

cook eat FRET said...

heart attack in a bowl
yet so delicious
i mean REALLY...

food of my youth

i never knew that flanken was short ribs until recently...

Emiline said...

Baba's got attitute!

Pixie said...

aww, i have chills and i'm literally tearing up; i love your baba can she be my virtual baba?

thanks for sharing ladies-now I must call my grandma in Gozo, Malta over the weekend!

Cakelaw said...

This sounds really interesting. Thanks for the background information behind the dish - it was fascinating to read.

Elle said...

I love Baba! The cholent looks delicious and I loved heating her talk about it!

Psychgrad said...

aran - they do fall off the bone. Today, since we use an oven (as does my baba), it's about a 4-5 hour cooking process.

kevin - the meat was moist. Mind you, I like the meat that becomes crispy on top and around the edges too.

Ben - With baba, it makes three. But she's not an official member of the blog.

Peter - she does love to tell stories. We're very glad to have this post. I'm sure I'll look back on it for years to come.

noble pig - thanks for visiting! That's really cute that your husband made you cholent for mother's day. In my family, cholent has become a bit more of a holiday dish.

cookeatfret - thanks for visiting! Love the name. I don't think of cholent being really bad for you. I mean, it's potatoes, meat and onion.

Emiline - sometimes we call her bubster or bugs-baba.

Pixie - sure - you can adopt her as a virtual baba.

Cakelaw - glad you enjoyed it. I give credit to Giz for most of the background stuff.

Elle - Baba is really cute.

Kate said...

The potato comment threw me off while I was reading because every cholent I've ever had was meaty! It's also so interesting to realize how recipes differ from family traditions - I think that's one of the things I love most about Judaism is how there are no "real" recipes for anything, just recipes past down through families with each family having a different recipe.

Rosie said...

If a recipe comes from grandmother it has to excellent! I just love the way the recipes are passed down from one generation to another! Sheer pleasure to read this post and view the vid :)

Rosie x

Lori Lynn said...

Your Baba is so precious. I wish my Nana was still here to share all her cooking secrets with me, but she passed away long before I had any interest in cooking. Baba is a living treasure.

african vanielje said...

It may not look great but I can absolutely taste it! It must be delicious. I love recipes like this and I tend to give them out in the same way. It takes real concentration for me to come up with exact measurements. And even then it will probabely be wrong because when I am cooking I go by feel, smell and taste. I have a fantastic Polish cheesecake recipe from my mom, who got it from an old Polish man who worked with my dad and it went something like: you start with eggs - how many? - how many you got? It is the best cheesecake ever! Thanks for entering A&T.

The Passionate Palate said...

What a treasure your Baba is! I am sorry that I missed this post the first time around. You are right, it is not a photogenic dish, but sometimes those are the best...I can tell it is delicious!

rowena said...

Reading through the recipe, this sounds like the most simple, yet delicious meal yet. All it needs is patience for the amount of time at the oven!

I love Baba. You should get her on film more often. She is ADORABLE!!!

Share/Bookmark