Cholent. Just the word evokes quite the image: for some, a warm and filling family dish, and for others, a disgusting stew made of everything but the kitchen sink. However, when made right, cholent can be hardy, tasty, and easily sharable, while also taking advantage of one of the best pieces of cooking equipment for the college student, the slow cooker. Of course, anyone will tell you that their cholent recipe is the best there is, but that just goes to show the versatility of this dish. And regardless of what exactly you put it in, cholent has unfailingly stood the test of time, as it has remained one of the best ways to bring people together to share in some warm and meaty goodness.
Quick etymology note: the word ‘cholent’ probably actually has the same root as ‘nonchalant’! When someone says that someone else is nonchalant, they’re saying that person is cool and laid-back. This definition can be understood from the etymology of ‘nonchalant,’ which comes from the prefix non (not), and the French chaud (hot) and lent (slow). So if you think about it, cholent actually means ‘slow and hot,’ which is most definitely an accurate description.
- Beef short ribs, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Onions, diced
- Sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Beans (any kind will do), soaked overnight
- 1 beer
- Line the bottom of the slow cooker with the potato, onion, and sweet potato. Season with the salt, pepper, paprika, and cinnamon.
- Place the meat on top of this layer, spreading it as evenly as possible. Season with the salt, pepper, paprika, and cinnamon.
- Finally, cover with the beans and barley. Season with the salt, pepper, paprika, and cinnamon.
- Pour the beer over all of the ingredients.
- Fill the slow cooker with water until just covering the ingredients.
- Turn the slow cooker to low and let cook for 10-12 hours, adding flour as needed to thicken the stew.
Why this recipe is good for college students: Slow cookers really are amazing. You can just put all of these ingredients in before going to class, and then when you get home, you have a hot and filling meal waiting for you. Cholent is also fairly customizable and easily sharable, making it a great low-work dish to prepare for a social gathering. Cholent really can be the type of thing where you just poke around your pantry, fridge, and spice rack looking for a way to make it your own, so it’s perfect for college students who don’t always have the time (or forethought) to get to the grocery store to get that one specific ingredient. In that same vein, cholent doesn’t require any of that pesky measuring business, and is truly the epitome of just throwing everything in there.
Why this recipe is good for those who keep Kosher: Kosher beef is expensive and rare and thus quite the luxury item. Cholent is a great way to cook it without requiring any intense beef cooking techniques at all. Also, as cholent was developed as a Jewish dish, it never called for any thickening cream, so you’re not missing anything.
What I would do differently if I made this recipe again
- Cholent is always a work in progress. I have received a lot of feedback on my cholent, and I look forward to tinkering with it. In the past I have added maple syrup, and I have also heard of using ketchup and honey as sweeteners and thickeners. Some people are fond of adding hot dogs. My next experiment is chickpeas. The point is, cholent can be whatever you want it to be, and it’s really just a trial and error process.