Students Face Off on April 7 to Determine Best Cholent Dish at Annual Cook-Off
Yeshiva University students will hold a “Cholent Cook-off” to determine who makes the tastiest and most original of the quintessential Shabbat dish on YU’s Wilf Campus in Weissberg Commons, 2495 Amsterdam Ave. (at 184th St.) on Thursday, April 7 at 2:45 PM. The event is sponsored by YU’s Office of University Housing.
In keeping with the tradition of slow-cooking the stew dish, 16 teams of four students will prepare their dishes the night before. The next afternoon, a panel of discriminating palates will crown the winner.
The judges are Dr. Esther Joel, wife of YU President Richard M. Joel; Elan Kornblum, president and publisher of Great Kosher Restaurants Magazine; Chef Avram Wiseman, senior culinary instructor at the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts; Jamie Geller, chief marketing officer of Kosher.com and author of Quick & Kosher: Recipes From The Bride Who Knew Nothing; Alan Riesenburger, catering director and executive chef of Fairway Market; Alana Newhouse, editor-in-chief of Tablet magazine; and David Samuels, a noted food writer/critic. The meat for the competition, Kobe-Wagyu beef, is being donated by A.D. Rosenblatt Kosher Meats.
Check out video from last year’s competition.
Cholent, for hundreds of years the traditional Shabbat-day meal for observant Jews in many countries, is a food for which there is no standard recipe; its ingredients are as diverse as the places where Jews have lived. A slow-cooked stew containing meat, vegetables,potatoes, beans and spices, it is one of the classic Jewish comfort foods and a dish that many look forward to from Shabbat to Shabbat.
Cholent in its various forms evolved from a combination of Jewish law and economic circumstances. Jewish law prohibits cooking on the Shabbat, from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. In order to have a hot lunch on the Shabbat, Jews prepare the Cholent – a one pot dish – before the start of Shabbat and let it cook overnight. Today, a slow cooker or crock pot is often used. Historically, in the Jewish towns of Europe, a community oven or the oven of the local baker was used.
Economic circumstances dictated ingredients – when meat was scarce or too expensive the Cholent would contain more starch, usually beans and potatoes. When times were good, more meat would be added to the dish. In some countries, beef is favored; in others chicken. In Sephardic communities, whole vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers are used, as well as rice and lamb or mutton. Where Ashkenazi Jews use salt, garlic, pepper, and paprika, Sephardic Jews use cumin, hot peppers and pistachio nuts.
The word Cholent and its pronunciations also vary. Ashkenazi Jews from Central and Eastern Europe call it Cholent, Sholet or Shalet, but Sephardic Jews know it as Chamin, a word that is probably French in origin.