Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ted’s Secret Pareve Cholent Secret (Pareve or Not)

Have I mentioned that Ted is the Pareve Cholent king of the world?  They had a cholent contest one year at our shul, and I keep hoping they will have another, and add a "pareve/veg" category so he can enter.

And now that a reader has actually requested a pareve cholent recipe, how can I let down my adoring fans???  (see comments here)

This week was actually a disappointment because we forgot to add beans and didn’t have barley (doh!), and I ended up not eating any because I was so annoyed. 

But often, what happens is I don’t feel like cholent, and then Ted serves it, and it sits in front of me looking and smelling so delicious that I end up eating it and LOVING it.  And then I forget for another week how much I love it.

We have also had guests – meat eaters and veggies alike – rave about this cholent.  So either they are lying to us or we are onto something good.  Hope (for your sake) it’s the latter!

Two things:

  1. We like our cholent on the soupy side, not thick like some people’s.  Some people have almost no “free” liquid in our cholent.  But I love the broth.  Plus, I never figured out how to make it thick without it tasting yucky and scorched.
  2. If you like chicken, use a fleishik pot and stick a couple of pieces of chicken on top just before you sprinkle on the fried onions.  :-)

Basically, we use (vary according to what you like):
~ 4 potatoes
~ 2 carrots
~ some barley - maybe 1/4 cup?
~ tin of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
~ 1 nice big onion
~ onion soup mix
~ chicken soup mix
~ salt & pepper to taste

  1. Slice the onion and fry it with a bit of oil and salt, low & slow for a long time, until kind of brown and shrivelled.
  2. Meanwhile, peel carrots.  Scrub & chop potatoes (we use organic potatoes, so don’t bother peeling the skins) and carrots - Ted wanted sweet potatoes one week, but we didn't like it.  Set in pot and add water to cover, plus about (plus maybe a half-inch?).
  3. Dump barley and beans (well-rinsed) into the water and turn it on to boil:  add a bit of salt and pepper.
  4. Boil for 30-45 minutes.  Turn off if there is still a while until Shabbos.  (but whatever you don’t, don’t forget to turn it back on beforehand – like we do ALL too often!!!)
  5. Turn the pot over to Ted before Shabbos to add his secret blend of onion soup and chicken soup mix.  Honestly, I do this as a “don’t ask, don’t tell” thing because the idea of all that soup mix kind of horrifies me.  But it always comes out tasting delicious.  He says “maybe like 3 tablespoons each?  Not very much, really.  That’s the minimum.”  If you want, you could probably add all the seasoning before Step 4 and taste before Shabbos to make sure it’s good.  Don’t go overboard with those soup mixes:  they’re basically all salt (plus fat, plus MSG – shudder, though I don’t believe MSG is as terrible for you as its reputation lets on).
  6. Finally… if you want meat, add three raw, skinless chicken backs (thighs) or a single skinless turkey thigh, then sprinkle the browned onions on top of everything – just float them on the cholent water if there’s no chicken.
  7. Set it on a blech (metal covering; we use a cookie sheet), set the burner, remove the burner knob and hope for the best!!!

Note:  It is my understanding that there is a heter that if you’re adding raw meat immediately before Shabbos, it doesn’t need to be fully-cooked.  My mother has heard that this is a terrible leniency and that all cholent meat should be fully cooked before the start of Shabbos.

Also.  If the burner is too high, your liquid will all bubble away and your cholent will be overdone.  But if it is too low, the cholent won’t boil at all.  I refuse to serve cholent that has not been bubbling properly the whole time, even if it is meatless. 

So you’ll have to know your stove pretty well… and then compensate for the interfering influence of the blech (thick blech needs higher heat, thin blech (like a tinfoil cookie sheet) needs hardly any.

Let me know how it works out if you try it… despite the warning about the heat, it’s really VERY simple!