confessions of a modern mom

The Best Meal for Cold Weather: Cholent

The Best Meal for Cold Weather: Cholent

Just a couple of hours ago, my amazing, thoughtful, smart, beautiful and wonderful cousin Debbie (who is a mother of two and a great cook in her own right) sent me an email asking for a recipe for Cholent…Funny timing, because I already had it going in my oven this morning…

I guess it’s this cold, frigid, brutal and gray weather that just DEMANDS this kind of meal. I have been dreaming of eating cholent for three days now. Yesterday, I picked up all the ingredients and this morning I prepped the stuff and threw it in the oven.

For those who are unfamiliar with this dish, Cholent (pronounced choont) is a very traditional Jewish meal. Usually prepared for the Shabbat lunch, it is a slow cooked stew made up of meat, potatoes, onions, beans, barley and eggs. Observant Jews would boil the stew on Friday night and place it in a low temp oven overnight until they served it for lunch the next day. I can just see the peasants of the Eastern European shtetls warming up around a hot pot of Cholent from the winters of Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc.

For me, this is just my most favorite meal. My mother makes one helluva cholent. When I say the word, it conjures up warm family nights, sitting around the table, eating serving upon serving of cholent. She used to make me a giant pot at the end of winter break from college so I would have enough for a week of deliciousness at school.

Cholent = love.

Even the famous poet Heinrich Heine wrote lovingly of Cholent (to which he refers as schalet) in his poem “Princess Shabbat” (“she” refers to Shabbat).

She allows her lover all things
Save this one, — tobacco-smoking:
Loved one ! smoking is forbidden,
For today the Sabbath is.

But at noon, in compensation,
Thou a steaming dish shalt taste of,
Which is perfectly delicious —
Thou shalt eat today some Schalet!

Schalet, beauteous spark immortal,
Daughter of Elysium !
Thus would Schiller’s song have sung it,
Had he ever tasted Schalet.

Schalet is the food of heaven,
Which the Lord Himself taught Moses
How to cook, when on that visit
To the summit of Mount Sinai,

Where the Lord Almighty also
Every good religious doctrine
And the holy ten commandments
Publish’d in a storm of lightning.

Schalet is the pure ambrosia
That the food of heaven composes—
Is the bread of Paradise;
And compared with food so glorious,

The ambrosia of the spurious
Heathen gods whom Greece once worshipp’d
And were naught but muffled devils,
Was but wretched devil’s dung.

Now you see, cholent is no simple stew. It literally envelopes you with warmth. So, if you’re looking for a great way to beat this nasty weather, I am giving you my recipe. Stay warm!



* 1.5 – 2.5 lbs beef (I use a mix of short ribs, flanken and chuck chunks, but you can use brisket and other cuts good for slow cooking)

* 2 medium – large onions, chopped

* 10 small yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut in half

* 1 lb beans (I found a cholent mix at Fairway, which is a mix of red kidney, lima, pinto)

* 6 eggs, rinsed

* 32 fl. oz. chicken or beef stock

* 1/2 cup pearled barley

* 4 garlic cloves

* kosher salt

* black pepper

* olive oil

* 1 1/2 tsp paprika

* 1/2 tsp turmeric

* 1/2 tsp cumin

NOTE: Beans can be soaked ahead of time overnight in a bowl with cold water. Otherwise, use the quick method (at the bottom of this recipe)


Preheat oven to 220 degrees F.

Salt and pepper all the meat on both sides.

Season your meat!
I used a variety of meat cuts

In a large (8 or 9 qt.) heavy Dutch oven, coat the bottom with olive oil and heat. Brown the meat on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside. Leave the leftover fat, oil and brown bits.

Saute the onions in the fat until caramelized (about 5 minutes).

Brown your onions

Add the meat back on top and stir. Add the soaked and drained beans on top of this and stir.

It’s starting to come together

Nestle the eggs evenly throughout the meat. Place the potatoes on top of everything else.

Ready for the bath

Cover all ingredients with stock. If stock isn’t enough, add water to cover. Bring mixture to a slow boil, skimming the foam off the top as it forms. Add all the seasonings to the pot. Stir just enough to get the spices all over the broth. Sprinkle the barley on top, but make sure it sinks into the liquid. Transfer pot to the oven and cook for 8 – 15 hours.

See you later!

The liquid should reduce by about half. Don’t let the liquid level go beyond that. You don’t want a dry cholent. If necessary, add more water so half the pot is full of liquid. If you have the opposite problem and the liquid hasn’t reduced, uncover the pot for the last hour. This will allow some of the liquid to evaporate.

Each person should get a hearty mix of everything – meat, potatoes, beans, egg. Feel free to serve it with horseradish. Some people like pickles and sauerkraut. I think a nice green veg would look pretty next to the cholent…Maybe steamed asparagus or green beans with mushrooms and garlic. Tonight, I am serving a crisp green lettuce as a first course, then steamed asparagus and horseradish alongside the cholent. If I have time, I may make baked apples for dessert. That’s TBD…

Sorry I don’t have a picture of the finished product because it still has a few hours to go. However, I do have this:

Anya: I finally found a spoon big enough for the cholent!

Quick Soak Method for Beans
Rinse beans in cold water. Put them in a large pot and cover with about 3 inches of cold water. Bring almost to a boil (small bubbles appear around the edges of the pot), cover, and remove from heat. Let sit for 1 hour. Drain. The beans will be “soaked” and ready to cook.


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