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.
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.
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.