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Chulent- first time!

Finally going to take out the crockpot I bought!

Experienced chulent makers.. Please help me.

I know I've asked for guidelines, but I'm still kind of in the dark. Any tried and true recipes? Ingredients? I've got stew meat (cubes) - will that work? Or should I pick up some flanken or short ribs?

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  1. Flanken/short ribs are notably better than cubed stew meat, but the latter works all right if you'd rather not make another trip.

    My usual recipe, which serves about 5-6 with side dishes:

    1/4 cup white beans (e.g. cannelini)
    1/4 cup red beans (e.g. kidney)
    1/4 cup barley, wheat berries, or a mixture
    2-3 large red-skinned, Yukon gold, or other boiling-friendly potatoes, peeled and cut in large chunks (optional - replace one or all potatoes with sweet potatoes or turnips)
    1 onion, chopped
    3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    1 pound flanken or other stewing beef
    1/4 cup ketchup
    1 can chicken stock, or homemade if you can spare it (it's the ONLY recipe where I used canned, but while homemade is great, I'm not making that much extra stock)
    More traditional seasoning: 1 bay leaf, several grinds black pepper
    Less traditional seasoning: cheesecloth bag(s) containing some or all of : 3-4 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf, 1 star anise, 1-2 dried hot peppers
    Water as needed, which will vary by your crock pot.

    Combine all, positioning the meat so that it's neither at the very top nor the very bottom of the crockpot. Stir to make sure ketchup is dissolved. Cook on Low until Shabbos lunch.

    On the other hand, my husband is currently mildly obsessed with Jamie Geller's husband's chulent: http://www.joyofkosher.com/recipe/fam...

    18 Replies
    1. re: GilaB

      I'm assuming the beans are both dried?

      How much water? Enough to cover all the ingredients or more than that?

      Also...stupidest question..when do I turn the crockpot on?

      1. re: cheesecake17

        Yes, dried beans. I do not bother with pre-soaking, although if you find that gassiness is a big issue for your family, you may prefer to soak the beans first overnight, discarding the soaking water. Canned beans will dissolve into mush.

        I generally turn the crockpot on midday on Friday, or at least an hour before Shabbos this time of year. It's not a question of precision timing.

        Water - it's hard to say, because some crock pots are quicker cookers than others. That said, enough water to cover all the ingredients will almost certainly be more than enough. For our crock pot, I add enough liquid to get most of the way up the ingredients, not covering the top 1/4 - 1/2 inch, and still end up with a slightly too liquidy chulent. I'm not brave enough to use less and risk burning, even though it means that the texture is too wet.

        1. re: GilaB

          Gila, instead of adding less water, try adding a bit more "ganef". The most commonly used are either grains (barley, rice, toasted wheat, rye, kamut, etc) or old school Polish with a matzah ball mixture. In the case of the first group, when the barley, for instance, reaches that point of super saturation 6-7 hours into the cook, they'll explode and will almost self regulate themselves based on how much liquid is available. I would suggest 2/3rd of a lb bag of barley as a good starting point. A palm full of quinoa is a nice additive too, super healthy (at least before cooking forever) and disappears nicely into the pot.

          Perhaps one of my favorite tricks when crock pot cholenting, onle taught to me by my older brother around the time of his bar mitzvah (we used to fight over who got to cook the cholent that week) I like to leave grains or matza meal mixture as nearly the last dry ingredient to go in, after which the water/dr. pepper/ other various liquids go in and the LASTLY carefully the kishke sliced above everything else. It will be lifted out of the liquid on a bed of starch which will in tun no only act as a layer of protection between the kishke and the stew but will alos absorb all of the shmaltz from the kishke which now exposed will bake and get crunchy on top of everything else. Even when mixed up at lunch time, the kishke will retain it's inherent kishkeness as opposed to getting lost in the general bouquet of the cholent.

          Use what you have in the fridge......and just have fun! Have a gevaldic Shabbas and enjoy you cholent!!!!

          1. re: gotcholent

            As long as you brought it up, how do you add the matzo ball mixture? This always sounds good to me, but I can't figure out how to do it. Is it supposed to stay together and cook up like a nice clump of matzo ball, or is it meant to get mushed up in the rest of the cholent? Should it be submerged in the water, or rest on top?

            1. re: helou

              I use the same procedure for both cholent and tzimmes. I make (form) golf ball size matzo balls and place them in the botto of the pan/pot and them add the rest of my ingredients. The matzo balls soak up the liquids including meat juices and generally maintain their shape. They do become weighty, more sinkers than when boiled in water, but capture the deliciousness of the total meal,

              1. re: bagelman01

                OK, thanks a lot, I get it. Will definitely try it out next week.

              2. re: helou

                I pour the matza meal mixture over the rest of cholent once every other dry ingredient is in. After the liquid is in, the mixture forms a hermetic seal across the top of the crock pot and mamish absorbs every bit of goodness from below as well as the delish shmaltz from the kishke baking above. Check out the pix below for illustration.

                As for for the meat machloket below, I can only say that you want to stay away from lean cuts. Either stew cuts or fatty ones, both of which require long and slow cooks are great. My favorite cuts are Short Ribs (flanken), 2nd cut brisket, naval pastrami, and beef cheeks...I'm definitely a cheeks man. Also, toss in a sausage, kielbasa or even 1/2 pound of salami...they do wonders!!!

                 
                 
                 
                1. re: gotcholent

                  Gotcholent: great pics! Looks like delicious cholent. How do you serve it when it's done? Do you serve the cooked mazta meal crust with each bowl, or on the side, or does it just sort of get mixed in?

                  1. re: serenarobin

                    With the exceptions of a handful of my cholents, most need a vigorous mixing up before serving as I like to cook my meats whole, no matter the cut as the lesser surface area protects against the meat drying out. You'll also get discernible crunchy bits of kishke throughout the cholent as well. Acting as the barley would after exploding, the matza meal mixture mixed thoroughly should act as your thickener giving you the sort of cholent you'd eat with a fork rather then a spoon. Like the spoon test in a well poured pint of guiness, I like a cholent that'll hold my fork standing freeing the other hand to l'chaim. Two more expert tips....using oven safe turkey bags or crock pot liners as well as an aluminum pan beneath your crock-pot to make for an easy clean up.

                    The pick below is an after-shot of a texas and polish cholent side by side. You can see how both the barley and matza meal mixtures have basically absorbed your excess liquid sealing in the stew brewing beneath. The sausage and kishke roast on top. The whole things marries together so beautifully.

                    Remember the only rule for cholent is that it cooks overnight...if you find yourself bored or just adventurous go way off the beaten track. Make a paella, or gumbo, a goulash, shepard's pie or chili, a tagine, casserole or stew. Have adventure is ever so rewarding!

                     
                    1. re: gotcholent

                      Have you had any luck using rice as a starch? When I've tried using rice I find it falls apart and doesn't really provide any structure to the cholent. I like to try being creative with my cholent, but I've been stuck using barley for everything because I find it's the only grain the somewhat holds up after cooking overnight.

                      1. re: avitrek

                        I really like using wheat berries (whole grains of hard, red spring wheat sold by Red Mill), for variety. Very different from barley since the individual berries stay intact and chewy.

                        1. re: AdinaA

                          I use farro. Also I have wondered if farro is just an Italian name for wheatberry.

                          1. re: susiejane

                            no, it is spelt, which though similar, si not the same as wheat berries.

                        2. re: avitrek

                          I do use rice in our Sefardi Hameen, Moroccan Dafina & Lamb Teriyaki Cholents. The rice is wrapped in a cheese cloth and cooks swimming in the great stew. The big difference with each of the cholents above as opposed to the dozen or so more Ashkenaz offerings is that Sefardi versions are generally served deconstructed as opposed to the homogenized melting pot that is cholent as most of us know it. Each of the grains listed above will work. I've even seen small kugels tossed in ontop of to get the same effect. It's all good!

                2. re: gotcholent

                  So I used kidney beans, white beans, barley, sweet potato, and Idaho potato. The meat was "boneless plate flanken." Honestly, I was going to buy bone-in flanken but the pieces were big and I didn't want to spend $30. I added in a bit of ketchup, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and water.

                  The result-
                  - too much water. I scooped out a bowl full.
                  - the meat was very tender. I put the pieces in whole, and they shredded nicely when cooked.
                  - husband loved it. He ate two bowls of it and loved the meat.
                  - personally did not care for the meat. Too "meaty" if that makes sense. I think I would prefer a version without meat or with meat only as a flavoring

                  Thanks all for the tips!

                  1. re: cheesecake17

                    On the meat vs. beans debate, I'm with you. If it was just for me, I'd use bones for flavor, forget the meat, and feast on flavorful beans. The nice thing about a cholent, is that you can adjust proportions to the tastes of your crowd. more starches or more meat. And let everyone take the parts they like best.

                    You could also adopt a more Moroccan style (not necessarily flavoring) of preparation. cook separate things (grain, beans, meat, bones, derma) in the same pot but in cheesecloth or other cotton cloth bags so that the flavors mix but the ingredients do not. Serve them in separate bowls or (more authentic) in concentric rings on an enormous platter. Let your husband enjoy his big hunks of meat while you eat the good stuff.

                3. re: GilaB

                  The thing that's better about flanken (or spare ribs) vs. cheaper meat, in my opinion, is the fact that they come with bones. I think the bones infuse the whole chulent with a meaty taste. I always use flanken, but If I think there won't be enough meat (you have to know your crowd), I'll add other meat too. My butcher sells "boneless spare ribs" - no idea what it really is - but they're very tasty and, though not cheap, a good value.

            2. (this new AJAX form on Chow doesn't work.. I wrote a comment and wasn't logged in so it disappeared into oblivion without prompting me for a login. Moderators/techs, please note.)

              I would recommend flanken with the bone. Also, if I am serving a big group of people, I'd add more meat (I use beef stew which is a cheaper cut) to meaten up (fleishify?) the chulent. Meat is always the biggest in-demand ingredient in a chulent so having more is better.

              1 Reply
              1. re: tamarw

                And the mobile version doesn't even have a reply button.

              2. I like to add marrow bones, especially if I'm not getting bones with the other meat I use. For the rest of the meat, I use what seasons labels a side steak since it is generally the cheapest per pound.

                1. Hi Cheesecake- Remember that cholent is very forgiving, so don't stress too much!

                  One thing I like to do is use beer instead of water. It makes the cholent more flavorful and also gives a better texture.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: PotatoPuff

                    No potatoes!

                    Sincerely,
                    Concerned Hungarians

                    1. re: DeisCane

                      ha, funny thing is that I forgot to put potatoes in the chulent I JUST put up until I read this thread.

                      Then I came to thank Chowhounders for their help in reminding me that this critical element was almost overlooked entirely.

                      And then I read this.

                      :)

                  2. it's all about the meat - splurge on the best - aka fattiest - you can!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ahuva

                      I completely disagree. Cholent is a long slow braise at a low temperature. Use a cheap tough cut of meat that can cook for a while and even requires a while for it to be good. Think pot roast. Better to use 2 pounds of a cheap cut at $10/pound than 1 pound of a more expensive cut at $20/pound.

                      1. re: ahuva

                        Fattier meat makes a better cholent. I prefer lamb to beef. I use lamb stew meat. The potatoes I prefer are the small red potatoes. I use an onion, too. Catsup or BBQ Sauce? Never in my cholent. A Romainian kishke is optional and so are a couple of hard-boiled eggs. Enough black pepper & a touch of onion & garlic powder among other spices.