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Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Magic Of Cholent - Preparation & Ingredients

Before reading the following please make sure you read:
The Magic Of Cholent - Introduction
and after finishing this post read:
The Magic Of Cholent - Directions For Cooking

Preparing your cholent for the first time is going to be difficult. A lot of this will work on instinct and knowledge of the ingredients you are going to use. It also demands attention. For this recipe we are assuming a 9 liter pot. (That is fairly large and can feed at least 10 hungry people - if not 25 - with cholent.)

1. Pot(s)

The first and important critical factor in making Cholent - is the pot(s) you are going to use. Do not even try to make this dish in a cheap thin pot. Simply put you will have burned cholent by the time you have to serve it. Completely burned and completely impossible to eat. You need a real good pot(s) for Cholent. So make sure you have them.

I have, actually had, (I will explain the "had" later) until this past Friday, three great cholent pots. My friends call them my "magic cholent pots". They are great and thick and handle the heat in an even and stable manner. Each pot cost me the equivalent of $50-$80 dollars. They are all well worth it. Of course I make other things in these pots but when I have to make cholent for the Sabbath, it is these pots and ONLY these pots which I will use. One pot is 10 liters, one 9.5 liters and one 9 liters. Each pot makes an enormous amount of cholent. I am not used to making cholent for less than at least 10 people who will be eating it. Indeed I find it difficult to make "small" pots of cholent.

Do not even try to make this dish in a cheap thin pot. I am fairly assured then that the distribution of heat and cooking is something that I can rely on. This is critical to the process. So make sure you have a good pot for this.

We are going to be filling this pot completely. Until it will require a miracle to get some more food in. Then we are going to add even more! And the miracle of cholent is that it always works that way. So hang on to your seats!

2. Water In The Pot

The size of the pot will obviously determine how much of each thing you will put in the cholent. However there are some things which must be kept in mind while buying the ingredients. The pot will be originally filled with one-quarter water. No more. Do not be tempted at the beginning to add more water. You can always add more afterwards but I am willing to bet you will find yourself removing water not adding to it.

Cholent without Kishke is like a body without a soul. Professional cooks are going to hate the following comment. There is NO real "amounts" here. There is taste buds and how you like your cholent to come out 24 hours later. The following list is just a suggestion. You can play around with the ingredients and the amounts to your hearts delight. Turmeric and Honey are somethings which must be added though if you want to taste Teddy's Magic Cholent!
Ingredients List

  1. Potatoes
  2. Sweet Potatoes
  3. Fresh Onions
  4. Fresh Garlic
  5. Carrots
  6. Fresh Mushrooms
  7. Fresh Basil
  8. Fresh Oregano
  9. Turmeric
  10. Fresh Bay Leaves
  11. White Kidney Beans
  12. Dark Red/Brown Kidney Beans
  13. Barley
  14. Hawwaj
  15. Honey
  16. Cooking Wine
  17. Parsley
  18. Meat
  19. Marrow (Meat) Bones
  20. Kishke
  21. Olive Oil

3. The "normative" ingredients
  1. Potatoes - These can be a mixture of the normal "Idaho" potatoes and the red skin variety if you like. This is a meat and potato dish. Thus potatoes are important. The size is not important as you will have to peel them. Assuming medium size potatoes you will need between 8-10 of them. The more the better. (Keep a few on hand not peeled in case you have room at in the pot at the end.)
  2. Sweet Potatoes - Three or four (3-4) of sweet potatoes depending on their size. Peeled of course. These will "melt" in the pot after a few hours. But they give taste and consistency to the Cholent and really add the overall taste.
  3. Fresh Onions - NO onion salt here. No onion spice. FRESH ONIONS. Around 8 of them, medium sized, sliced in half or quarters - no more. Do not chop or dice them. As the Cholent cooks the layers will peel away. (If you cry while peeling the onions wash your eyes with cold water. It works to stop the effect.)
  4. Fresh Garlic - Two and FRESH. No garlic salt or garlic powder. FRESH. Not chopped either. Garlic comes in a round ball with the cloves attached (again for our pot you will need two garlic balls - which have many cloves). What you should do is take the "garlic ball" put it on a cutting board, get out your best cutting knife, and cut from the center down. This way the cloves will be detached. Now comes a bit of an argument and old wives tale. Many people believe that the "skin" on each clove of garlic is where a lot of the "nutrients" are. You can either peel off this skin on each clove or leave it on. Nine out of ten times it will be dissolved in the cooking process. BUT the garlic itself should not be diced or cut. Put in the cloves as they are. Whole.
  5. Carrots - Four or five peeled carrots, cut into thirds. These give taste and color. Try not to leave them out.
  6. Around 10 small Mushrooms
  7. 1 Tablespoon of Basil - FRESH.
  8. 1 Tablespoon of Oregano - FRESH.
  9. Turmeric (Carcom in Hebrew) - Very difficult to determine the exact amount. This depends on your pot size and your taste buds. In every 5 liters you should have at the very least 2 Heaping Tablespoons of Turmeric.
  10. 5-8 Bay Leaves - Fresh
  11. 250 grams White Kidney Beans (Kitniyot in Hebrew)
  12. 25o grams Dark Red/Brown Kidney Beans (Kitniyot in Hebrew)
  13. 100-150 grams Barley (Girisim in Hebrew)
  14. 2 Tablespoons of Hawwaj - I have tried and tired and tried to find out what the name of this spice is in English and if it is sold outside of the Middle East. This is an Arabic/Yemenite spice which is made either for cooking or there is also Hawwaj for Coffee. (If anyone out there knows the spice please leave a comment here)
  15. One Jar of Honey (350 grams) - This is a CRITICAL INGREDIENT! (Actually one of my secret ingredients!)
  16. 1-2 small glasses of good red cooking wine (kosher of course!)
  17. 1 Tablespoon of FRESH Parsley
  18. Meat - now comes the budget and the need. Some people put "flanken" meat into the cholent. This is a fatty meat which I have no love of. Rather what you need is good regular meat (not chopped) from the side of the cow or lamb (or combination of both). Be aware that over the cooking a lot of the meat will shrink and "melt". You need enough meat to give it taste, smell and certainly for people to eat. In a 9 liter pot, at least 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) of whatever meat you are using should be minimum. The meat can be purchased from your butcher or your supermarket.
  19. Bones - We are not referring to steak bones here. These are actually the leg bones of the cow which are cut up by the butcher. They have marrow in them and this is one of the most important ingredients which gives the cholent its taste. You need at least 4-5 bones in such a pot. Each bone is cut so figure on one-half a kilo of bones. (Butchers sometimes also refer to other bones from the cow as "sugar bones". These are good additions BUT you need the real strong "marrow" bones for the taste.
  20. Kishke - Cholent without Kishke is like a body without a soul. No Kishke - oy vey! Then no cholent. This is one ingredient that is required. A Must. And worse it has to be good Kishke. Real good Kishke. The better the Kishke the better the cholent. So what the hell is Kishke?

    We are going to be filling this pot completely. Until it will require a miracle to get some more food in. Then we are going to add even more! And the miracle of cholent is that it always works that way. So hang on to your seats!Kishke is actually a Yiddish word which refers to "intestines". Such as a parent saying to a wayward child, "You are eating my kishkes out!". And indeed in days long gone by Kishke was really the intestines of the cow. However these are full of disease and unhealthy as all hell. Kishke is what is called "stuffed derma" today. There are hundreds of kishke recipes out there, and most have the basics of oil, flour, salt and onions. Take a look here if you do not know what kishke is.

    Kishke can be bought or made. And like cholent depending on who makes it will determine how good it is. Really good Kishke if you purchase it, is something you will have to ask around to see who likes what best - BUT the only way of finding out the perfect Kishke for you and your family is to try a few sold in the supermarkets.

    If you make your own Kishke - and again this is not a veggie recipe, then make it with chicken fat in the flour. That will give it an incredible taste. And ONLY use really good olive oil in the flour as well.
Am I done? pretty much so. These are the ingredients you have to get together. The next post on Cholent (coming real soon) will be The Magic Of Cholent - Directions For Making. In the meantime the above will give you an idea on how to make the perfect cholent!

Now before you have a nervous breakdown, get a glass of wine to calm down. You are going to need good red wine to eat with the cholent anyway.

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5-stars for difficulty. As you can see this demands preparation and forethought.

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5 Fire Comments - Click To Post A Comment:

Unknown said...

Hawaaj is cardamom. Hope that helps you out....

Unknown said...

Hawwaaj is cardamom. Hope this helps.

Unknown said...

Hawwaaj is cardamom. Hope this helps you. I know cause I am obssesed with Turkish coffee and add extra ground up haawwaj to my coffee.

Gideon said...

Hel is Cardamon
Hawaaj is a mixture of Cumin, Cardamon, Black Pepper, Cordiander Seeds, Tumeric, Salt.

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