Too Much Time On Your Hands: Cholent Cookoff 2009

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cholent cookoff I really like ranking food. So much so that I even held a 16-team tournament to determine the best Jewish food out there on this very blog.

During the food tournament, cholent didn’t do too badly. Getting knocked out by latkes is the quarterfinals in nothing to be ashamed of. So when my brother told me he and my friend Ariel (pictured together with their cholent) would be hosting a cholent cookoff, I told them that I’d be happy to report on what happened.

Where I come from, if you are going to do something like this, you go all out. And I’m happy to report that “Cholent Cookoff 2009″ was a serious event. With five different teams participating and four judges to determine the winner, the night was intense.

Yes, there were five whole crock pots of cholent to consume. And all were unique. But who would win? Would it be “The Chunt,” whose use of ground beef made the cholent, as one judge declared, “taste like butta?” Or would it be “The Inkishkables” who relied on copious amounts of kishka to win over the judges?

Or would it be “My Daddy’s Cholent,” whose use of curry made for a very unique end result? Would “My Sweet 16″ named after its 16 ingredients be too complex for the judges? Or, finally, would “Quality Control,” using classic flavors, reign supreme?

cholent cookoff

As the judges (above) conferred, it became apparent that some cholents were worse than advertised. The Inkishkables did everything in their power to make the judges not vote for them. One judge questioned whether it was a vegetarian cholent (it was not), while another thought it was mass-produced (it was not). Better luck next year girls!

Overall, there was a consensus. “The Sweet Sixteen” was the winner with an overall rating of 8.5/10 from the judges. With a great ratio of kishka, to potatoes, to sweet potatoes, the judges gave it a slight edge over “The Chunt.”

Will 2010 bring better luck to the losers? Will Team Zevriel, makers of “The Sweet 16″ be able to repeat or will they implode like the 2004 Lakers? Will we ever be able to accept a curry cholent into the mainstream?

Only time will tell, kids. Only time will tell.

Posted on December 21, 2009

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13 thoughts on “Too Much Time On Your Hands: Cholent Cookoff 2009

  1. Jeremy Moses Post author

    If anyone would like the recipes to any of the cholents, I have all of them. Just ask.

  2. Pingback: Too Much Time On Your Hands: Cholent Cookoff 2009 | JewPI.com

  3. llennhoff

    I’m asking. My wife and I want to make a cholent for this shabbat. I’m particularly interested in My Daddy’s Cholent, but if you give me all of them, I will look at them all.

  4. Jeremy Moses Post author

    I wish I had more specifics about the amounts but this will have to do. These are the ingredients. I’ll try to find out what else goes in there. I’m assuming there needs to be some type of liquid…

    My Daddy’s Cholent

    Equal amounts of: barley, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, white beans
    LOTS of curry
    LOTS of cumin
    A fair amount of paprika
    Salt
    Beef chuck, in pieces
    Salami, chopped up
    Potatoes
    Sweet potatoes

  5. Jeremy Moses Post author

    Here are more details on Sweet 16.

    Credit for this recipe has to go to the Stavsky’s of Columbus, Ohio, who fed the staff of Camp Ramah Palmer for years with this amazing recipe. Some changes have been made to the original. There are approximately 16 ingredients in this cholent – hence its name.

    The sauce is what makes this cholent unique. We used a base of tomato sauce and tomato paste (both canned). But you can use marinara sauce or even ketchup. We put it in a sauce pan on medium heat and mixed in an envelope of Goodman’s Onion Soup Mix and a bit of water. Then we added some pure maple syrup and brown sugar. We also minced 5-6 cloves of garlic and added pepper and nutmeg. The proportions are really according to your liking. The red sauce and onion soup is the secret to this cholent.

    Dice onions – enough to cover the bottom of the pot.

    Then layer in a mixture of beans and barley (We used red and white kidney beans from a can, drained and washed). But supposedly dried beans can be put in, without presoaking.

    Next, put a layer of flanken or rib-eye steak. Ideally the butcher will already have pre-cut “cholent” meat. We found that the pieces needed to be cut up a bit more to create semi-large bite sizes.

    We places a layer of the sauce in at this point.

    The next layer was a mix of 2/3rds sweet and 1/3rd regular Yukon Gold/Idaho potatoes (just enough to cover the meat). We did not peel the potatoes. They were cut about 1 centimeter thick.

    Another layer of sauce.

    If there is space, put in another layer of beans, then meat, then potatoes…

    We placed 2 skinny kishkas on top, to be sliced when cooking is over. We rubbed brown sugar on the kishkas as well.

    Then another layer of the sauce. We also put in a couple small glasses of water to fill up the pot (this is only if the cholent looks a bit dry.)

    Since it cooked for 18 hours, we kept the crock pot on low the whole time.

    (If there’s too much liquid, take out with spoon during cooking).

  6. llennhoff

    I realize precision measurement is forbidden on Shabbat, but surely it is ok when preparing stuff Friday afternoon! :>)

    Assume we are using 1 pound of stew meat in the sweet 16 recipe. Approximately how much tomato sauce and tomato paste would you need?

  7. Jeremy Moses Post author

    I spoke with the talented chefs and they admitted it was a little bit of guess work (what cholent isn’t?). But they said use a big can of tomato sauce and two small cans of tomato paste. But it can vary.

  8. Zev

    yeah, just make a lot of tomato sauce (don’t forget the onion soup mix – super clutch ingredient). flavor to your liking. use as much sauce as needed to fill the crock pot. good luck!

  9. llennhoff

    I made the sweet 16 cholent over shabbat, athough I used an oven rather than a crock pot. It was geshmach – some of the best cholent I’ve had. Thanks so much.

  10. llennhoff

    Modified sweet 16 cholent recipe (with quantities and certainty added for Yekkies :
    Sauce:

    1 bottle Tomato Sauce (I used Barilla Marinara)
    1 small can Tomato Paste
    5 heaping tsp garlic
    1 package Goodman’s Kosher Onion Soup Mix
    1/4 cup maple syrup
    brown sugar to taste
    1/2 tsp nutmeg

    Cholent:
    1 lb bone in stew meat
    1 large vidalia onion
    1 can Goya Kidney beans with liquid
    1 can Goya White Beans with liquid
    1 bag barley (8 oz?)
    1 white potatoes, sliced in rounds, unpeeled
    2 yellow potato, sliced in rounds, unpeeled
    1 sweet potato, sliced in rounds unpeeled

    The sauce is what makes this cholent unique. Mix ingredient above together and simmer for a while on medium low heat. The red sauce and onion soup is the secret to this cholent.

    In a 12″ circular baking pot
    Dice onions – enough to cover the bottom of the pot.

    Then layer in a mixture of beans and barley.

    Next, put a layer of stew meat.

    We places a layer of the sauce in at this point.

    The next layer was a mix of 2/3rds sweet and 1/3rd regular Yukon Gold/Idaho potatoes (just enough to cover the meat). We did not peel the potatoes. They were cut about 1 centimeter thick.

    Another layer of sauce.

    If there is space, put in another layer of beans, then meat, then potatoes…

    I put the sweet potato rounds on the circumference of the pot.

    Then another layer of the sauce. Add water if needed.

    Cook in 350 degree oven for 3 -4 hours, then just before Shabbat add water if needed and keep warm until Shabbos lunch.

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