Traveling to New York City in February may not be ideal but there is this internal “tug” that draws us to visit “the children” no matter where they are. Of course, my children are no longer children, but adults. Yet, they still have birthdays and that is as good a reason as any to visit. Two of my children now live in NYC, the city of my birth. My youngest is in Israel and though I have not yet visited him, I spend many hours contemplating that trip. So, what do you do when you go see your children in the dead of winter and know that your visit will span Shabbat? You plan to make cholent.
I am a traditionalist when it comes to cholent. In other words my oven has never seen a veggie cholent, chicken cholent, tofu cholent or any of the other variations that are currently in vogue. As a daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants I remember the stories that my mother told me of what Shabbat was like in Mogielnica, a small town outside of Warsaw. Her aunt owned the local bakery and apparently each household would bring their cholent to the bakery before Shabbat and place their pots in the commercial oven from which they were retrieved the next day for lunch. I have often wondered how people recognized which cholent pot belonged to their family.
So, I am off to NYC and in my “carry on” luggage there will be 5 Lbs. of frozen short ribs for the cholent,from Doheny Kosher, 3 packages of Jeff’s Sausages and two frozen layers of carrot cake, ready to assemble for my son’s birthday.
Here is the basic recipe for my mother’s cholent.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
I large onion, left whole.
1 1/2 cups small white beans
1/2 cup pearl barley
4-5 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut in eighths.
4 or 5 strips of short ribs, cut up.
salt and pepper to taste.
Layer the beans, barley and potatoes in the bottom of a heavy pot. Add the short ribs and then add enough water JUST to cover, Season with salt and pepper. Bring cholent to a boil, cover with lid and then place in oven overnight. I normally cook this for at 12-14 hours. If there is too much water, uncover until some water is absorbed. DO NOT STIR.