Sunday, March 23, 2008

Beef Cholent for a Sephardic Passover

So we got invited to Passover at a non cohousing friend's house. Neither Elmer nor I are religious. He's decidedly NOT and I am... er... what you would politely call a "free spirit". However, we love going to other people's religious functions. I think being aware of, appreciating & honoring religious ritual that is not your own is the key to world peace.
Also, there is usually damn good food, and as a couple we have never be accused of turning down damn good food.

This particular Passover is a kind of an "orange on the Seder plate" kind of Passover. Cheryl, the organizer, lovingly refers to it as Matzopalloza. She spreads her joy in her culture by encouraging us all to cook food appropriate for the occasion.
This year, she decided that we would have a Sephardic passover and would some brave, intrepid, adventurous cooks be interested in making Cholent?
Brave? Intrepid? Adventurous? That's us! We'll do it!!
(Okay, what the heck is Cholent?)
A quick web search later and we get an understanding that it is a stew that is cooked long and slow so that one can have hot food on the Sabbath without having done any work to cook it (hence violating Sabbath rules about resting on the Sabbath).

We got our basic recipe from here.

Despite the injunctions on this website not to use a crock pot, our oven does not go as low as the cook wanted us to cook at, but our crock pot did.
Also, as cooks we intrigued with the concept of slow cooking recipes, specifically ones that do not start with the phrase "Open a can of..."

Beef Cholent for a Sephardic Passover (Feeds 12 - 14)

3 cups dry mixed beans (we used Bob's 13 bean mix because that's what we had in the house)
4 Tbs olive oil
2 large onions chopped into chunks.
6 cloves garlic
3 Tbs Sweet Hungarian paprika
3 tsp salt
3 tsp pepper.
1.5 cups toasted buckwheat/kashka
2 lbs fingerling or other waxy potato, cut into large chunks.
2 lbs beef (we used boneless short ribs, because that's what we had already).
1 lbs beef bones (we bought cheap ass shin bones)
6 eggs in shells, washed

Take your beans and soak them in water that is at least 3 fingers over the level of beans in the bowl for 5 - 8 hours.
Pull your eggs out of the fridge, wash them, and let them come to room temperature.
Pour boiling hot water in your crock pot and preheat the crock pot at the high setting while you work.
Drain your beans.
Turn oven to 400. Put beef bones in a cast iron skillet and roast them in the oven for 30 - 45 minutes. Set the beef bones aside.
While that is going cut the onion into large chunks.
Slice up the shallot
Mince up your garlic.
Cut your potatoes into large chunks.
Take the still messy skillet and quickly brown your beef on all sides. Set aside. Drain fat from skillet.

In same skillet saute the onions & shallot until translucent, 5 - 7 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook another few minutes.
Add the Salt, pepper & paprika. Saute a little more.
Take that gloriously fragrant mixture out and put into a large bowl (not a white one, or you will be cleaning paprika stains with Ajax for a while, trust me on this).
Add the soaked beans and mix together.
Add the potatoes and mix.
Add the buckwheat/kashka and mix.
Despair. Realize you have made enough to feed an army and begin to think that your crock pot is too small.
Empty the water from the crock pot
Put a small layer of bones at the bottom of crock pot.
On top of that put in a layer of the bean mixture.
Lay in half of your meat pieces. Nestle the six eggs in between the meat.
Cover with another layer of bean mixture.
Lay in the other half of the meat pieces.
Cover with the rest of the bean mixture.
Rejoice. Realize you are at your limit for the crock pot and you just made it.
Pour in enough hot water to attempt to cover.
Cover top with foil to make sure the lid & pot cover tightly.
Put on lid.
Leave at the high setting for one hour.
Freak out when you realize that the buckwheat is going to expand and wonder where that expansion is going to go.
Pray (see, we're religious!) .

After an hour note that the liquid is bubbling over the lid.
Get a pan and put it under the crock pot to catch that.

Now... ignore the crock pot for a minimum of 7 hours.

The cholent ended up smelling strange. Perhaps it was the kashka, but it reminded me of what corned beef hash out of a can smelled like. A little off putting. But it was stick to your ribs thick and chewy. Lack of enough water I presume. And despite the smell we could NOT stop eating it. It was even better reheated the next day.

We packed what we did not eat (which is STILL A LOT) and put it in the freezer for Passover. We will probably reheat in the crock pot and add more water at that time.

More Passover cooking soon.

Next year perhaps our friends and neighbors will gather for Passover in the Common House.

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