Cholent, that rib-sticking Jewish Sabbath stew with its beef, barley, and beans, and overnight cooking, is the central focus of an old joke. A priest complains to a rabbi about his incessant insomnia. The rabbi says, “I have the perfect remedy: cholent. Eat it and you’ll sleep like a baby!”
The rabbi gives the priest the recipe for the cholent, and the priest makes and eats the cholent, falling into a deep sleep. Some days later, the rabbi sees the priest and asks him, “Nu? So did the cholent put you to sleep?”
The priest says, “That cholent is amazing stuff—puts one right to sleep. I have just one question: How do you wake up??”
The cool thing about cholent, other than its effect on sleep, is the magic that takes place overnight: the Maillard Reaction, or the change in color and flavor that occurs with long, slow cooking that makes everything so delicious.
Here’s my recipe for crockpot cholent:
- 1 cup dried lima beans
- 2 lb. short ribs with bone
- 2 lbs. boneless short ribs
- 3 large onions, sliced
- ¼ cup schmaltz (or more)
- Salt, pepper, paprika
- 3 cloves garlic, run through a microplane or garlic press
- ¾ cup pearl barley
- Sort beans, soak overnight, drain.
- Optional additions: kishke (stuffed derma), eggs in their shells, peeled and quartered potatoes
- In heavy skillet, brown sliced onions in hot schmaltz. Place browned onions in bottom of crockpot.
- Rub meat generously with salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika. Brown meat on all sides in hot schmaltz, adding more schmaltz to pan if necessary to keep meat from sticking. Place browned meat on top of onions in crockpot.
- Add soaked, drained beans and sorted, rinsed barley to crockpot.
- Add water to skillet and deglaze the pan. Add the deglazing water to the crockpot. Top up crockpot with just enough water to cover ingredients. Add salt to taste.
- Add any optional items to crockpot, according to preference and size of crockpot liner.
- Cover crockpot and set on low 2 ½ hours before the start of Shabbos. Leave to cook overnight until Shabbos.