altivo: (rocking horse)
[personal profile] altivo
Since I was home all day yesterday and Gary went to a Christmas party in the afternoon and got back for dinner late, I made a satisfying dish that can wait until a convenient time to be served.

Cholent is a slow cooked stew that was created by Jewish cooks in order to be able to serve a hot meal on the sabbath without actually cooking or lighting a fire. The ingredients were put into a heavy ceramic pot, and the lid sealed on with dough. This could then be placed in a hot brick oven before sunset on Friday and left to cook overnight. The pot was retrieved and opened at midday on Saturday, with a complete meal ready to eat inside. In fact, a smaller tin with a tight-fitting lid could be placed inside the cholent pot in order to cook a kugel (pudding dish) to be served for dessert.

I took an interest in Jewish traditional food for a while, and this was one of the recipes that we really enjoyed. My version is evolved a bit, since some of the traditional ingredients are not only hard to get but unappealing to us (beef tongue, goose neck.) The main differences are my use of smoked turkey sausage in place of the traditional beef brisket or chicken, and the addition of some brown rice for additional texture.

Oven Baked Cholent (stew)

1 large purple onion (peeled and diced)
4 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 medium potato (washed and diced, not peeled)
2 turnips or 1 rutabaga (peeled and diced)
1 lb. of smoked turkey sausage (cut in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices)
1 28 oz. can of stewed or crushed tomatoes
1/2 c. pearled barley (not "instant")
1/2 c. brown rice
1-1/2 c. dry small lima beans
5 c. (more or less) water
1 Tbsp. Hungarian sweet paprika
1 Tbsp. Hungarian hot paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 275 F. Heat a heavy cast iron casserole or Dutch oven (with a tight fitting lid) to moderate temperature on range. Add oil, and stir in onion and garlic, cooking until the onion begins to soften. Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and bake in oven for 6 to 8 hours.

Traditionally, this was not uncovered or stirred, but I find it helpful to check every hour or two. Give it a stir, and add some boiling water if it seems to be drying out too much. The rice and beans absorb a lot of water, and thicken the stew nicely. The finished dish has the consistency of a thick chili and is quite fragrant and moderately spicy. You can adjust the hot paprika or add cumin and chili powder to lower or raise the heat to your taste.

Can also be prepared in a crock pot, but you'll have to experiment to find out the correct amount of liquid to use depending on the temperature of your pot.

The smell of this dish while it is cooking is guaranteed to make your mouth water and your tummy growl. Serve with fresh baked rye bread, tossed salad, and red wine.

Vegetarian option: substitute eggplant or hard winter squash for the turkey sausage. You might add some sage or oregano to increase the aroma in this case.

I strongly recommend use of imported paprika from Hungary. The brand we usually get here is "Szeged" and it comes in red rectangular tins. Ordinary "paprika" sold in American grocery stores is much too bland and tasteless. If you can't get imported paprika, then try ground cumin and chili powder instead. It isn't the same, but it works.

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