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Feb 28, 2011 09:56 AM

Hottest Kosher Food

I thought we have made real progress in the world of kosher food with the arrival of places like Mikes Bistro, Pardes, etc but I am disturbed today to read an artile in the Kosher-today newsletter discussing the hottest new kosher food......CHOLENT!.

Besides the fact that this article is basically an advertisement for one specific "cholent maker" in the 5 towns, I find it hard to believe that this could or should be considered the "hottest kosher food"

It seems every time we take a step forward we take 2 steps back.

Any thoughts...

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  1. Well... there are fancy new Jewish-style restaurants with no prevention to kashruth serving it in New York. And it's been very big on the European Jewish nostalgia circuit for years. For Poles, it on the "must do" list for touring Kracow. In addition to touring the castle, the centrla square, the cathedral and the museums, they go to the old Jewish neighborhood, look at the old synagogues, and eat in one of the many restaurants offering cholent.

    6 Replies
    1. re: AdinaA

      Here's the Times on Mile End in Brooklyn:

      But lately things have been interesting after dark. In October, Mr. Bernamoff and Ms. Cohen hired Aaron Israel, previously a sous chef at Torrisi Italian Specialties, to expand the dinner menu. Mr. Israel seems intent on doing for humble home-style Ashkenazi food what the gentlemen at Torrisi are doing for Italian-American: update and elevate.

      To that end, there is cholent ($18), a stew traditionally prepared on a Friday and slow-cooked overnight, to get around the proscription against lighting a fire and cooking on the Sabbath. It is meant to be eaten at noon, but on an icy night no one will complain. The buried treasures are a plump sweetbread kishke, or sausage, and a veal short rib that collapses at the touch.

      1. re: AdinaA

        Should probably point out that this is not a kosher restaurant. Here's an item from their menu including Chazzer (which I assume is pork):

        breakfast sandwich 6.5
        two eggs, chazzer , quebec cheddar, rye

      2. re: AdinaA

        I'm not sure that non-kosher consumers looking for authenticity (kosher or not) is related to KosherChef's point.

        Many of us (chowhounds, foodies, etc) bemoan the unsophisticated palates that seem to be so common in the Kosher-keeping community. Worse than that is the media coverage that is so far behind the curve, as to be insulting. Like the yearly "kosher wine isn't just manischewitz anymore" article, that we can expect as Pesach draws near.

        1. re: psycomp

          I love that article! Historic scoop! The New York Times discovers that there is good kosher wine in the world! You don't have to during grape syrup for Passover! You read it here first!

          I have looked forward to reading this hot news item every spring for the last twenty years.

          1. re: AdinaA

            LOL. I was just thinking that it was about 20 years ago that the Spouse insisted on providing the wine for the Seders since he knew where to buy "good" kosher wine. He'd read it in the WSJ, btw. Boy, the argument that ensued with the BIL because there was no such thing as good kosher wine. Twenty years. The more things change...or, as they say, ayn chadash mitachat la-shemesh.

        2. re: AdinaA

          Here's another pair of chefs cooking upscale pastrami and other Ashkenazi Jewish stuff (not kosher), this one in San Francisco. The Wise Sons deli

        3. I didn't read the article you saw, but in general this is part of the contemporary search for authenticity.

          1. Ugh. More proof that Jewish palates need some work.

            Although I wouldnt lump in standard cholent with the cholent-like stews of Morocco, Syria and other Sephardi communities. The flavor profiles are compeltely different with spices like cinamon, cloves, ginger, star anise, cardamom, etc.

            7 Replies
            1. re: shaytmg

              Look, I love cholet as much as the next guy but to call it the "hottest kosher food" is a little ridiculous.

              1. re: shaytmg

                Shaytmg, How long is it since you're made a cholent. i ask, because while i have a fondness for an old-fashioned cholent, I wouldn't want to eat t every week. But I think that some of my attitude comes from the limitation of coking technologies. Even the early crock pots were inferior to the ones we have now, everything used to have a kind of overcooked flavor that I associated with cholent. The new crockpots simmer at a lower temperature, or something. But you can put things like tomatoes or carrots into them and have them come out tasting like tomato and carrot.

                1. re: AdinaA

                  Adina, I've never actually had a cholent I liked so have never tried to make one myself. Everyone I know tells me I don't like cholent because I never had their's, and still have yet to find one I like. Although, as you can see from my other topic I do plan on trying to make a Moroccan dafina soon.

                  Not sure what you mean by old-fashioned cholent though. Cholent predates the crockpot, so I guess an old-fashioned one would be cooked in a hearth with dying coals. Are you saying new cholent is better than the stuff that has been served for generations? :)

                  1. re: shaytmg

                    Yes, I really think that it must be. The old way,, it started at a very high heat, and then cooked to death.

                    Now, if you turn it to low as soon as the food is cooked. And the vegetables come out tasting like vegetables. Without that cholent taste.

                    1. re: AdinaA

                      I can't believe I'm reading this discussion on this board. Chowhounders more than anyone else should know it's not the dish, it's the care in preparation and the quality of the ingredients.

                      My cholent takes hours to prepare. I use beef stock and Israeli Coca Cola (made with sugar instead of corn syrup, all year round), grass fed beef (it still tastes like beef after simmering all Shabbos long), sauteed onions, beef sausage simmered in sauerkraut if I'm in the mood, two different types of paprika, and so on, on the lowest crockpot setting.

                      I know that a can of beans, a potato, three sliced up hot dogs, ketchup and honey, burned till crispy is more traditional, but that's not how I roll.

                      Why can't cholent be chowish, again?

                      1. re: The Cameraman

                        My wife is a cholent virtuoso, but I'd love to get your recipe.

                        1. re: typo lad

                          Sorry about the delay.

                          I usually cook by taste, eyeballing ingredients, so please bear with me.

                          Slice fresh, not frozen, Italian sausage or keilbasa into 1.5 inch chunks. Slice one large potato into large chunks. Cover with 2 inch layer of sauerkraut and one inch of water. Add teaspoon nutmeg, teaspoon coriander, splash of lemon juice, and some orange zest. Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are soft.

                          Combine 3 parts sea salt, 3 parts black pepper, 4 parts sweet Hungarian paprika, 1 part smoked paprika. Set aside.

                          In crock pot, combine 3 parts barley, one part kidney beans, one part navy beans, and one part lima beans (dry). Add one large onion, sauteed golden (do not overcook the onion or the cholent will turn bitter), 3 raw garlic cloves, 1 liter of beef stock, one liter of Coca Cola made with sugar (either Mexican Coke, or Kosher for Passover Coke- my local grocery store conveniently stocks Israeli Coke. I find normal Coke made with CFS gives an unpleasant chemical aftertaste) and spice mixture.. Add sausage and sauerkraut mixture. Add vegetable oil- I strain and save oil whenever I fry meat or chicken, and use that for cholent, and yes, you can taste the difference.

                          One day I'll learn to make jachnun, but for now, Sabra makes an acceptable frozen version. Wrap in silver foil and place in cholent, making sure it is covered in as much water as possible.

                          If you can, select a fatty cut of grass fed beef and add to cholent. Otherwise, add a beef bone. Be sure to select one with as much marrow as possible.

                          Turn the crockpot up to the highest heat setting and bring the cholent to a boil for 45 minutes.

                          Crack a raw egg into a glass cup, check for blood spots, and gently slide the raw egg into the now boiling cholent. This will allow it to poach. Prepare one egg per person.

                          Allow cholent to cook on highest crockpot setting until just before Shabbos (allow at least two hours cooking time). Right before licht benchin, turn crockpot down to lowest setting. Cover crockpot with towel.

                          On Shabbos, serve the jachnun and egg with crushed tomato dip, schug, and chummus as a course separate from the cholent.

                          This is a work in progress, and i know it's a lot of trouble to go to for a cholent, but it's a special dish for a special day.

              2. The original comment has been removed
                1. kosher today is so behind ...under new products for Passover --Ora’s Organics tea line. that tea has been out for years. Many of the new products in the new products showcase have been out for over 6 months,

                  1. re: koshergourmetmart

                    I think is more of a "foodie take on comfort food" kind of trend. Sweetbread kishke? Sign me up! Onion soup mix? Hell no.

                    1. re: DeisCane

                      Problem is peasant comfort foods from other cultures actually start out tasting quite amazing - tagine, beef bourgonoin, Chinese hot pot, Korean galbi Jim, etc.

                      Go Judges!!

                      1. re: shaytmg

                        Er, I hate to burst your bubble. But peasants ate very little meat. And had little access to spices, sugars, fresh vegetables or even oils and fats. What we think of as ethnic food was holiday food, once-a-year stuff. Or palace food. Or foods invented in the modern period with roots in the far less tasty food that peasants ate.

                        1. re: AdinaA

                          Um actually the peasant stews we know made use of the things that poor people had access to. The variations on this theme, whether different vegetables, starches and meats, were due to the location each stew originated from and relied on local ingredients. Guess poor people were the first locavores.

                          The little animal products they did have were the bones and the tough cuts that required long simmering in liquids to make tender. Also the little meat went a long way when mixed with vegetables, especially starchy root vegetables which are common ingredients in peasant stews and survive long periods of storage.

                          1. re: shaytmg

                            Your are right. In the Middle Est, people ate a huge amount of bread and ful and, when they could, a small stew in the center of a huge platter of rice. And so forth. But the daily fare of peasants was bread or grain and pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, pease porrige in the pot nine days old. In other words, stewed field peas for dinner, leftover cold stewed peas for supper and breakfast, and the rest of the leftover stewed peas until it was all used up. With bread baked once a weak, and eaten hard by the third day. By which time it was essential to sop the bread in thinned stewed bean soup so that it would not crack your teeth. Peasants diets were boring and brown. In China and Japan, meat as virtially absent form the peasant diet. Peasant girls taken into middle or upper class households, even in the Poland of the interwar period, had to be taught how to cook. They came form homes with one pot in which they simmered beans, grain and onions. It was pretty grim.

                            But you are right, rich peasants everywhere knew how to make a great stew, and south of the alps they had discovered spices and herbs . Which in northern climes the peasants never ate. The great delicacy there, the crowning glory of northern peasant cuisine was the pickle. As in sauerkraut.

                            I'm exaggerating a little, but the good old days were pretty dreadful.

                2. I can totally see a Chipotle-styled Cholent take-out place, pick your meats, starches and toppings. Go Latin, Asian, Cajun or even Indian. Could be onto something....

                  19 Replies
                  1. re: ferret

                    Then wait 18 hours for the result?

                    1. re: DeisCane

                      It's part of the slow food movement.

                      1. re: DeisCane

                        How about a Bobby Flay throw-down....24 hr marathon episode:)

                        1. re: DeisCane

                          Here's where Chow likes me to disclose that I am a chef, and the owner of got cholent? inc., who had a brief cameo in the article in question... I think that the real scoop is not that Yidden are going back to peasant food, it's that we have begun to approach the comfort foods of our past with the same respect, veneration even, that we would rack of lamb or a delicate sauce. The return to/reinvention of comfort foods has been a major trend in the food industry, kosher & non-kosher alike. Shaytgmg, that dafina you loved so much was a cholent, and it put a smile on this chef's face to see a self described "cholent hater" come around. Yes, all those spices you mentioned (not to mention the hand made lamb sausage, medjul dates and turkish apricots) offer a far different flavor profile then the onion soup mix and ketchup that people of think of when making cholent usually. I don't see cholent franchises opening up, or taco bell adding it to their menu any time soon. But it is refreshing to see real love going into this dish, not just in scattered homes around the world, but in the commercial marketplace as well. Cholent has always been about adapting to the times, and where you are can any foodie not want to see that continue to apply to us here and now.

                          And while there are certainly any number of important ground rules to keep your pot from turning to coal in an overnight cook, there are truly incredible dishes that please even the most sophisticated of palates while still bearing the name cholent.

                          1. re: gotcholent

                            "Gut Gezugt" as they say in Cholent world.

                            1. re: gotcholent

                              I love cholent, but cholent don't love me

                              1. re: berel

                                Berel, have you tried any beanless cholents? I can get the same if not better consistency with barley, and none of the bean side effects.

                                1. re: avitrek

                                  yes I have. I also leave out the marrow bones and the beer but we call that stew ;-)

                                  made a crockpot stew with stew meat, potatoes, carrots, celery and barley last Shabbos for lunch. had no problem on Shabbos or motzei Shabbos, but when I ate the leftovers on tuesday I had all the cholent side effects, weird.

                              2. re: gotcholent

                                Ha, busted!! Yes I thought your dafina was actually quite great, and happy to have brought a smile to your face. To be completely honest, it was wrong of me to not try the two other varieties you were serving last Tuesday. Although this discussion is really all about symantics and the ashkenazi palate, as opposed to just cholent, or whatever one regards as cholent.

                                What I am referring to is the polish-style cholent served at every shul kiddush and shabbat lunch I have ever been to. I don't think one can compare the Ashkenazi cholent to the sepahrdi dishes. While they may have been developed for the same reason, I think it is reasonable to conclude that they developed in isolation and had no influence on each other. The Sephardi dishes have different ingredients, spices and are different culturally.

                                If you consider dafina as cholent, then yes, in your mind I guess I like a type of cholent. Might need therapy after an admission like that. :)

                                What my issue is that for years I have seen people going bat sh@t crazy for overcooked, foul-tasting mush. I commend you for trying to bring cholent out of the dark ages, but my initial thinking holds true, and the worship of the standard cholent supports this. Aside from cholent, the glut of mediocre kosher restaurants that are regularly packed further proves the point that the collective ashkenazi jewish palate needs some major help.

                                1. re: shaytmg

                                  It is terribly unfortunate that the Ashkanazi palate here in the US is what it is....mediocrity has reigned supreme long enough, It wasn't a month ago that I had a waiter coming in asking for ketchup for one of the tables.....the dish was a succulent pair of double lamb just about broke my heart. But the fact that there are so many of us here is testament that things have change/are changing.

                                  1. re: gotcholent

                                    Look at that, we have come full circle and gotten back to the point of KosherChef's initial post.

                                    Ketchup? This is why I can never work in the jewish services industry. I know the customer is always right, but this diner deserved a beat down. You are a better man than me.

                                    I hope you are right that things are changing. Although the crowds at some of the dairy restaurants recently opened in the NY/NJ area beg to differ.

                                    1. re: shaytmg

                                      People say that the "customer is always right"....well that's just a bunch of rubbish... but the "customer is always the customer" and in the kosher service industry or any other we expected to say yes...
                                      At the very same time, I cannot tell you how often a 12-13 yr Bar/bat mitzvah child, will ask us about the "mouthfeel" or "balance" of a a particular dish, or will really think through and have a very refined, even sophisticated approach to their Simcha meal planning.. These are kid's that have been brought up watching the food network or Top Chef, and even love to get in the kitchen themselves. I'm not saying that every mac'n'cheese pack will come with a small packet of truffle oil any time soon, but the winds of change are a'blowin...(insert cholent joke here)

                                      1. re: gotcholent

                                        Ok, so I tried to make a dafina this past shabbat. Chickpeas, potatoes, marrow bones, lamb sausage meatballs, koulcas, an egg, dates, dried apricots, onions and tons of ras el hanout, cinnamon, cumin and tumeric. On Friday night, the house smelled amazing of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, all the good stuff in morocan cooking.

                                        I woke up sat morning and the house reeked of my worst nightmare. Yup, I made a big pot of, ugh, chulent. The taste of the spices were nowhere to be found, and I ended up dumping the entire thing. It still tasted better than most of the chulents I have tasted, bit was still pretty gross.

                                        Any chance you are willing to part with any of your secrets? ;)

                                        1. re: shaytmg

                                          Was this in a slow cooker on the lowest setting?

                                          I tried apricots only once. They dissolved to nothing and the flavor was gone.

                                          Cinnamon also disappeared. I have had better luck with cumin, which keeps its flavor until after Mussaf. Hot peppers, by contrast, do fade. I find that I need to add extra, or add it when serving.

                                          I never use potatoes in a Maghrebi cholent, but only due to personal preference. You question makes me wonder if there is something about potatoes.

                                          I often keep it very simple, chopped tomatoes (a box of Pomi) , onions, chicken, cumin, dried hot peppers or flakes and chicken. I have had excellent results with carrots, parsnips and celery (usually only one of the three). Sweet peppers tend to dissolve to nothing. When I want a grain (often I serve one on the side) wheat berries in the hull are my favorite. This approach gives me a dish that tastes nothing like cholent. It's chicken and vegetables in spicy red sauce.

                                          I have similar results with beef, goat and lamb.

                                          Hope this helps.

                                          1. re: AdinaA

                                            Yup, slow cooker on low setting.

                                            I am not sure this will work as an overnight dish.

                                          2. re: shaytmg

                                            We cook our Dafina overnight at 180 degrees, any hotter and things can overcook, any less and they won't cook enough. As for the cinnamon, we use high quality (bought from Kalustyans in Murray Hill, love that place!!!) and place the entire sticks in for the overnight stew, they pack their punch even after cooking overnight. The only other cardinal rule that we observe with all of our cholents, is that all meats are placed into the cholent pots/pans WHOLE...we never cube, dice or shred the meats before the overnight cook as I find that doing so guarantees overcooked dry pieces of meat that sour the rest of the pot. By meal time you meat slaps will be fork tender and simply fall apart as the cholent is stirred. If utilizing sausage or meatballs in the recipe as it seems you did, then try adding a bit of shredded apple and onion to your balls/sausage before forming them...........That as well as making the balls 1.5X the usual size works wonders in keeping the meat tender.

                                            1. re: gotcholent

                                              Ha, love Kalustyans too. Was the only place in Manhattan I was able to find curing salt. Gotta love a place that sells more than 10 types of cinnamon.

                                              Thanks for the tips. I will have to try to make dafina again

                                      2. re: gotcholent

                                        Have you seen the TV series _Chef_, with Lenny Henry?