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Need to fine-tune my cholent for 12/16 (Meat question)

So I am turning into the Susan Lucci of my shul's cholent cook-off. This is my 3 rd year of entering a 4 year old annual event.

My question is really about the meat,

I am going to go with a flanken, but the question is how much, should I get it cut? Which butcher?
P.S. I live in Teaneck so I am only willing to go area stores. Should I throw in some bones?

Maybe this year will be "it".


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  1. My secret? Beef bones AND a hunk of corned beef, the fattier the better. Just get your butcher to slice an end piece off (you want the spices, so use an end shtickle if possible). The problem with flanken is that it flavors the cholent well but after 24 hours of cooking it's mostly flavorless. The corned beef flavors the cholent, and it's still full of flavor after cooking for 24 hours.

    Corned beef does nothing for your mouthfeel, though, so throw in a soup bone or two as well.

    May I also recommend sweet potato instead of regular potato.

    Good luck!

    3 Replies
    1. re: The Cameraman

      just adding some brainstorming from years of cholent making;

      I would try a test batch with sweet potato aka yams before serving it to others.
      many people find it's texture and aftertaste in a stew medium to be unpleasant.

      other hard vegetables to avoid include beets, radish and turnips - too bitter.

      hard vegetables worth experimenting include various dense squash, carrots, and
      hard melons like papaya and pumpkin. just cube them as you would any potato.

      keep in mind people associate cholent with a specific taste and texture,
      so if you divert too much from that typical medium, you will lose them if
      you try to change or add more than a few non-classic elements.

      if you use many different types of dry beans in your stew,
      i recommend using canned garbanzo:chickpeas - not dry, as
      they don't soften enough to the same texture as other dry beans.

      in addition to dry barley, I recommend adding cracked peas and lentils.

      hard boiled egg whites-only can make a nice addition to your cholent.
      but cut them large 4-quadrants per egg, don't dice them in.

      I agree London Broil maintains its flavor better than Short Ribs (Flanken).
      if you allow Flaken bones in your cholent, make sure they are all thicker
      than an egg - don't risk surprising your guests with anything smaller.

      I brine the raw meat in salt water for a few hours before cooking with it.
      a tablespoon or two of dry chicken soup powder is a fast cheap way
      to enhance the flavors of your cholent without adding salt. the most
      common mistake is over salting your cholent, so keep it mild and
      let your guests do it.

      Osem now has a low MSG version of it's chicken stock powder.
      but technically Maltodexin is also a potential free glutamic acid.

      1. re: Joe Berger

        "a tablespoon or two of dry chicken soup powder is a fast cheap way to enhance the flavors of your cholent without adding salt."

        Did you read the first ingredient of the chicken stock powder you linked? It may be low in MSG, but it is definitely not low in salt.

        1. re: avitrek

          yes, i should have rephrased it somehow,
          but now i don't really care to bother - thanx.
          is your cup half empty much? LOL

    2. I have come to learn that the marrow bones really do add something (flavor and heft).

      8 Replies
      1. re: cappucino

        alternatively, I add a good amount of beer, which also adds flavor and texture

        1. re: PotatoPuff

          Aside from a hefty Guinness reduction in our Schlepper's pie-Irish styled cholent, I have never found myself happy with the beer experiments (and they have been countless) although I make no secret about my love and use of Dr. Pepper as both a meat tenderizer and nice kick of Umami.... What do you use P-Puff?

          To toss my 2cents in on the original question, flanken (short ribs) or awesome, but I also adore 2nd cut brisket, naval cuts and beef cheeks. For the winter season, a smoked turkey neck or leg works wonders as well. G'Shabbos y'all!!!

          1. re: gotcholent

            Gotcholent....you can't sneak away with that post. Now that I have a sister living in Dublin, can you give me some hints as to how you make your Irish Cholent? And then I'll tell you how she makes hers...I believe it involves ox tail as that it about the cheapest cut of meat she can get.

            1. re: vallevin

              Ahhhhhh.....what I would do to be able to use ox tail...alas, not in this country, not with the OU or STAR-K...another great reason to make Aliyah:)

              Our schlepper's pie is a Shabbat friendly homage to one of my all time favorite comfort foods, Irish Sheppard's pie, only with a few subtle changes or innovations. For starters, I like to brown veal and lamb as the base, the Guinness is added to the broth for braising as it addes a wonderful depth and touch of wang to the general bouquet. We also replace the traditional mashed potato topping with our shredded potato kugel recipe. The result after an all night slow bake (180-200 degrees) is simply awesome. In all humility, I also won my very first cholent throwdown/competition with this one some years ago (nice bragging rights considering Jeffery Nathan had three entries)

              1. re: gotcholent

                Turns out the cut she uses is called "lamb henry".

                1. re: vallevin

                  I make a 'winter' chulent with beer, typically of the winter ale variety, i.e. Anchor Christmas Ale (the irony). The chulent consists of flanken, sweet potato, small red potato, butternut squash, barley, onions/shallots/garlic, honey and a variety of spices, with kishka, of course. I like the combination of the winter beer with said veggies, but I like to cook with beer in general and I'm aware it's not everyone's thing.
                  Gotcholent, where can I try one (all) of your many cholents? Are your cholents sold anywhere?

                  1. re: abu applesauce

                    Hi Abu applesauce....chowhound does not usualy appreciate/allow self marketing on these threads...but to answer your direct question, all of our offerings are made to order and served to or delivered directly to our clients be they shuls, hotels, private clients or so on. There are a number of shuls that we deliver to weekly, if you would like to email me directly and let me know where you live, I can recommend the closest one. The smallest sized orders we make are pre-bagged and crock-pot ready, each feeds 8-12 people.
                    Otherwise, come to the Kosher Food & Wine Expo by Royal Wines at Chelsea Piers(Feb 13), I plan to serve between 6-10 of our cholents there this year.

            2. re: gotcholent

              Have to say the 2nd cut brisket works great. I have made your texas cholent, albeit with minor modifications twice now, and its a big hit. My wife will not make it because she says its much more work than simply throwing everything in, but I think my kids like it better. Only problem is I need to be home on Friday to make it.

          1. The most awesome chulent I ever ate/watched be made.....fry up your onions and white potatoes in generous oil til cooked and browned. Next add all the end cuts the butch has, and 8 mean whatever is available. Through in some marrow bones, your beans, barley, generous amount of salt and pepper.......YUMMM. but br forewarned, repeated eatings will definately affect ones health.

            12 Replies
            1. re: ettilou

              Cumin. Lots of cumin.

              Oh and we make ours with more water than usual and keep it on high instead of low. You need to test that though...

                1. re: berel

                  Beer? Interesting...

                  I dislike beer but it might make for interesting flavor.

                  1. re: SoCal Mother

                    the alcohol evaporates, my wife doesn't like beer either but loves my cholent

                    1. re: berel

                      As a warning, the one time I made a beer-based chulent, it made my apartment smell like a brewery.

                      1. re: GilaB

                        I've never had that problem. what brand and how much beer did you use?

                        1. re: berel

                          It was a decade ago, so I don't remember clearly, but it was two different brands. My roommate and I received them as part of a mishloach manos, and since we didn't drink beer, we decided to make chulent with them instead. I think it was two regular bottles, along with water to make a largish chulent (for 8-10 people.)

                    2. re: SoCal Mother

                      Beer is terrific in cholent. Yes, your kitchen will smell like a saloon for a while after you dump in the beer. However, be patient: the beer integrates with the cholent and deepens the flavor - but the cholent itself will not taste or smell beery.

                      What I''ve learned over the years is that you should use a beer that has substance and body, not a pale light beer, which, I have discovered through sad experience, might as well be water. This year I am using Sam Adams Black Lager in my cholent and I like it a lot.

                      1. re: Pumpkinseed

                        I've been using Yuengling Lager, it's got substance and body but doesn't cost an arm and a leg at Costco

                        1. re: berel

                          I've used Yuengling in the past - it's good!!

                          1. re: Pumpkinseed

                            it's a good drinking lager too, and not expensive

                        2. re: Pumpkinseed

                          I use Guinness Stout for stews but find it gets bitter in a cholent. A Black Lager would not overpower the cholent.

                2. 1 lb meat per lb of other dry ingredients, boneless short ribs, plenty of cumin, no bones necessary. The biggest advantage to bones is the body that the collagen adds to soup. In the case of cholent of typical thickness, the contribution of the collagen will be unnoticed when compared to the beans and barley. If you use flavorless meat, bones can add flavor, but by using a flavorful meat, there's no need to add bones, which typically are not removed prior to serving and take up room in the bowls.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ganeden

                    Aaah, but some of us like to lick the bones clean! It's one of the joys of meat chulent!

                  2. We just recently had a cholentfest in my minyan in SI, and my wife won with a Indian inspired cholent. Lamb and curry, with lentils instead of the usual bean mix. It even wowed me with the flavor. Also, what ever you do, marinate your meat over night in the fridge in a ziplock bag so the flavors really permeate the meat.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: azcohen

                      Sounds delicious. Would you be able to post the recipe?

                    2. I second the short ribs suggestion -

                      1. You have inspired me. I am making cholent this weekend. It's been FREEZING here in SoCal. It was so cold I had to wear a SWEATER this morning!!! (OK it warmed up by lunch time...)

                        Definitely cholent weather.

                        Good luck Val! We're rooting for you!

                        1. good luck tomorrow Vallevin!!

                          Win one for Team Chowhound!!

                          1. Adding an additional 2cents, I recently tried the Jack's Gourmet sausages, and while I haven't yet used them in a cholent (although we often add Romanian garlic sausage cut into chunks) I can see that they would add some character, especially the spicy Italian or Chorizo varieties. If you're reluctant to add to the cholent, then you can always have them as "mix-ins" (years ago we had Lithuanian neighbors who prepared their cholent in a "deconstructed" manner and assembled the ingredients to order).

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ferret

                              Did they do this on Shabbos? I would see an issue with putting in vegetables such as raw onions that would get cooked by the hot cholent. Or perhaps this was on Motzei Shabbos.

                              1. re: Dovid

                                It could also have been a kli shlishi sort of thing....in the same vein as we often, for large crowds, will have entire pans of kishke go into the warmers overnight...people are then able to add a slice to the cholent on their own plates from the buffet line. As long as things are not being added to your kli rishon (the original cooking vessel) you should be just fine on a bishul level.

                            2. Okay, so I getting ready to go off and make the cholent, I'm going with 1.5 lbs of boneless shortribs and neck bones. Thanks to my plumber, who is an amatuer cook (and a professional plumber) who urged me to check country of origin for the garlic and make I bought US grown garlic. Tasting is tomorrow night, I will post result motzei Shabbos.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: vallevin

                                Good luck . . . and I hope you can trust the judging; everything tastes good after a fast!!

                              2. 2ND PLACE AGAIN AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!! ! !

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: vallevin

                                  Better than I would have gotten. I served cholent today for lunch and IT DIDN'T ALL GET EATEN...

                                  Seriously: You now have 3 years of data. What were the characteristics of the cholents that won? You can game the system by figuring out what the judges are looking for. Look over the recipes of the winners and try to figure out what they have in common.

                                  This is not about good food my friend, this is about WINNING!!!

                                  1. re: SoCal Mother

                                    I know what I need to do for next year, BRING IN RINGERS. In fact I am officially inviting the entire kosher board readership for next year's cook-off.

                                    The judges are everyone who attends the oneg, you get a card and fold down a tab corresponding to the color of cholent (each pot gets a set of colored bowls so you know what is what).

                                    This is all fine, I'll become more famous for losing than any of the winners will for winning (except of course for our Rabbi, who won in the first year)

                                    1. re: vallevin

                                      Hi there, I am making Cholent for the first time for a "chili cook off" so I decided to make a "chili-cholent". Joan Nathan actually has a recipe for it but I used a variety of recipes combined. It smells divine, chili powder, Flanken and Italian Kosher Sausage that I got from Tibor's our local butcher in Cleveland. I enjoyed reading your posts and have cousins in Teaneck. Our YI here does a Cholent cook off each yr too.

                                      1. re: Mysharona

                                        Try a bit of navel pastrami....it'll lend that bite o smoke thar a chili made over a fire would have....How i do love Tibors and wish we had someone like him here in nyc....And vallevin, count me in too.....where and when?

                                        1. re: gotcholent

                                          Hi, wanted to let y'all know I came in SECOND place out of 15 last week at the Chili-cook off with my "Sharon's Famous Cholent-Chili"! Used Flanken, and four of Tibor's own Italian spicy sausage,Osem Cholent bean package, 1/3 bag barley, also added tomato juice, reg coke, a small bottle, a tad honey, cumin, oregano, basil, a smidgen Jack Daniels, 1.5 bottles organic ketchup, sauteed onions, celery, redskin potatoes, it was a smash hit! (Not traditional but it certainly was an intro to people who had no clue what Cholent is)..

                                    2. re: vallevin

                                      I agree, time to get scientific. We need to analyze the winning cholents to try and figure out the winning formula. Were they Polish style, Hungarian style, Russian style? More beans, more barley, more meat, more potatoes? Any particular type of meat? Sweet, spicy, greasy, thick, watery, tomato-y? What kind of crowd is it, what kind of cholent are they looking for?

                                      1. re: The Cameraman

                                        So, the general consensus is that my cholent was a fantastic standard cholent. The winning cholent (from what I saw on prep night) was definitely more potcheked with. I saw sweet potatoes, I think onions were sauteed, and I among all the different spices, I am fairly sure I saw dehydrated onions.

                                        I supposed I could go the MSG route and pre-sautee the onions, but that would only be fore contest, on a regular friday I cannot be bothered.

                                        1. re: vallevin

                                          You didn't taste the winning cholent? You need a sympathetic taster to describe it, then, while their memory is still fresh. Try to find out the flavor elements, texture, and anything unusual that stood out.

                                          Luckily, a mostly-traditional-but-gepotchked cholent won, which will be very helpful in triangulating the voters' tastes (mostly traditional, seeking slight surprise but rejecting anything too far out of the ordinary).

                                          It is now the mission of the entire Kosher board to win the gold for Vallevin next year. We've got a year to prepare, I say we get started now.

                                    3. I know this is late, but I made my cholent with Tabatchnik Beef Broth (no other liquid) this week, and it was awesome.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: The Cameraman

                                        Ah, so traditional takes the silver but sort of odd but not way out (no Indian spices, BBQ sauce, non-Ashkenazi) takes the gold.

                                        Were there any truly unusual cholents and how did they rank?

                                        One last important question: Were children allowed to vote????

                                        1. re: SoCal Mother

                                          Yes kids were allowed to vote.

                                          There were some other usual cholent there, I have no idea how they ranked (I was told of my rank privately).

                                          As for the really spicy cholent....when did fire become a flavor?

                                          1. re: vallevin

                                            As for the really spicy cholent....when did fire become a flavor?

                                            every good cholent needs a splash of hot sauce

                                            1. re: vallevin

                                              'Fire' became a flavor when the Sefardim taught the Ashkenazim that flavors other than 'salty' 'peppery' and 'paprikash' exist.

                                              1. re: The Cameraman

                                                Little kids do not like hot sauce, teenagers do. Little kids like ketchup, even in cholent.

                                                Our NCSY director puts ketchup in the Friday night NCSY cholent and then stirs the kishke up into the mush just before serving. We put little bottles of hot sauce on the table next to it.

                                                I think it's indigestion in a pot but the teens scrape the pot to get the last drop.

                                                Val we need to figure out who the voters are!!! A little market research goes a long way.

                                                1. re: SoCal Mother

                                                  Oh and how many Chowhounders can you sleep at your house for Shabbat?

                                                  1. re: SoCal Mother

                                                    On real beds..... 4 or 5, but more if folks wants to air mattress it, of course. there is always the delicate matter of clearing these things with my husband..