I had watched Shmulik and his wife Carmela, owners of the restaurant Shmulik on Herzl Street in Tel Aviv, demonstrate cholent and kishke at the Jerusalem Gastronomic Congress in 1992, and I enjoyed the two dishes at a party at their restaurant. The following is based on their recipe.
2 lbs (1 kg) fatty beef—brisket, breast, or rib
3 tablespoons light vegetable oil
2 large onions, sliced
3‑5 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
2 marrow bones (optional)
2 lbs (1 kg) potatoes, peeled, whole if small, quartered if medium
½ lb (250 g) dried white haricot or butter beans, soaked for an hour
½ cup (100 g) pearl barley (optional)
Salt and pepper
In a large heavy pot or casserole with a tightly fitting lid, brown the meat in the oil. Remove it, and fry the onions until soft. Add the garlic and fry until the aroma rises. Return the meat to the pot, add the marrow bones, and arrange the potatoes, beans, and barley around it, sprinkling each layer with salt and pepper.
Cover with water and bring to a boil. Remove the scum, then put the lid on and leave in the lowest oven (225ºF; 110ºC) overnight. Remove the lid at the table, so that everyone can get the first whiff of the appetizing smell which emanates.
-Two marrow bones (ask the butcher to slice them for you) add a wonderful rich flavor and texture.
-Use 1¼ cups (250 g) kasha instead of the beans and barley.
-Some people put onion skins on top of the stew to give a more pronounced brown color.
-Flavor with 1 teaspoon paprika and 1 teaspoon ground ginger.
-Hungarians and Alsatians add smoked or preserved goose.
-For a cholent knaidlach (dumpling) also referred to as “cholent kugel” (pudding), work 4 tablespoons finely chopped chicken fat into 1 cup (150g) flour with your hands, add 1 egg, 2 tablespoons grated onion, salt and pepper, and if you like 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley or 1 teaspoon paprika. Add a little water if the dough is too dry, or a little flour if it is too sticky. Roll into a fat oval loaf or ball and place on top of the other ingredients in the stew. When serving, cut in slices.
-For a matzo knaidlach, beat 2 eggs with salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons rendered chicken fat and mix in 1 1/3 cups (175 g) medium matzo meal. Form into a ball and put on top of the other ingredients in the pot. When serving, cut in slices.
Reprinted with permission from The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York, published by Knopf.