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Gentlemen, start your crock pots


Chulent is a traditional Jewish stew made of meat, potatoes, barley, onions and beans, prepared before the Sabbath and left to simmer overnight. In doing so, observant Jews avoid violating the Biblical prohibitions of cooking on the Sabbath while still being able to enjoy a delicious, hot Sabbath meal.

Did we say stew? The truth is, chulent is so much more. As the renowned German scholar Heinrich Heine described it, chulent is “pure ambrosia,” the “bread of Paradise,” the “food of heaven. For generations, Jews have been tweaking and perfecting their special recipes.

And so, last month the Young Israel of West Hartford decided to put chulent legacies to the test by hosting “The First Annual Chulent Cook-off.” The cooking began on Friday afternoon Jan. 20, when seven teams of participants met at the Young Israel to prepare their chulent entries. The synagogue supplied the basic ingredients – i.e., potatoes, onions, garlic, beans, barley, regular stew meat, salt, pepper, paprika and ketchup – to which teams added up to five of their own ingredients Each team’s chulent were then left at the synagogue to simmer overnight.

The next morning, more than 200 people gathered at Young Israel of West Hartford to sample each chulent and vote for their favorite. And the winner was…Dr. Ronen Elefant of Team Elefant, who took home the Young Israel’s coveted “Golden Ladle” award.

Here is the champion’s winning “secret” chulent recipe:

Marrow bones
2 potatoes cut into chunks
1 large onion cut into chunks
½ cup of kidney beans
½ cup barley
1 lb stew beef
1 kishka
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons onion or chicken soup mix
3 cloves of minced garlic

Place the marrow bones on the bottom of the slow cooker pot. Add potatoes, onion, kidney beans and barley. Add the beef. Remove and discard the kishka wrapper and then cut the kishka into disks and then lay an even layer of the kishka on top. Add paprika, salt, pepper, ketchup, minced garlic, and the onion or chicken soup mix. Pour just enough water to cover most of the ingredients, but don’t fill the water to the top, otherwise it will spill over as it cooks. Leave the slow cooker on low heat for 12 to 14 hours.

CAP: Eric Maurer prepares his “Chulent Kick-off” entry.

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