NOTE: I’m going to use the words chulent (Ashkenazi name) and chamin (Sephardi name) interchangeably. Also, scroll down to watch a short video of how I make chamin.
There’s a wide range of ways to make chulent, also known as chamin and recipes span both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi worlds.
Furthermore, the art of making chulent goes back more than a millennium meaning the Jewish community has rarely lost affinity for this lovely, sometimes soupy, sometimes thick-broth-textured Shabbos day lunch.
Even the non-Jewish world has grown to have an appreciation for this very Jewish dish as noted in a 2014 NPR segment called ‘Chulent: The Original Slow-Cooked Dish.
But that’s what chamin is. Every time someone makes one, it’s a story unto itself because in most cases, how a chulent comes out can be anyone’s guess. A chulent (or chamin!) maker simply gets the hang of it and after a while rarely goes wrong. And that’s a nice feeling…
How do I make chulent/chamin
In general, I’d say chulent could be divided into two main categories: vegetarian and meat.
I’m sure it won’t surprise many of you but I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about the meat chamin, which I love to make for cold, wintry shabboses.
What kind of meat is best for chulent/chamin?
First of all, if you’re going to make a meat chulent you can use any type of meat but it’s important to know some cuts work much better than others.
Here’s a few tips to keep in mind:
1. My general rule: A bone with cartilage and if possible fat can be quite nice because it thickens the broth when it breaks up during the slow cook.
Lamb cuts: When it comes to lamb chulents, lamb bones in particular are nice because of the cartilage and lamb fat which gives extra flavor.
Beef cuts: When it comes to beef chulents two cuts in particular which enhance flavor are short ribs and neck, the latter because it has lots of bone and cartilage.
2. Lamb & Beef together
Some people find the taste of lamb too strong. For this I recommend making a beef and lamb chulent. I personally don’t mind the gamy lamb flavor but I also like to mix lamb and beef together in my chamin. Doing so gives you a nice balance of both worlds.
3. Things I add in my chulent/chamin
I like to keep the chulent simple and in doing so, I believe it brings out the most flavor of the meat.
For instance, I may toss into the pot the following: a cup of lentils, tomato paste, some salt and pepper, onion, water, potatoes, and an occasional head of garlic. I may even add some eggs dropping them in to cook with everything else. (NOTE: Make sure to wash off the eggs first!)
When preparing, how much of the ingredients you’ll need really depends on how may people you are having and what you like. But that’s what’s great about chulent. It’s the ultimate experimental dish!
Make sure to leave at least an hour and a half before Shabbos to prep and boil contents of the pot.
Some people use a crock pot but I personally use a simple but large pot.
When I have time I also like to brown the meat first by frying it with onions but that's not essential.
Put everything in the pot, let it come to a boil, and then put it on a slow flame if there is time before shabbos or simply put on the hot plate before candle lighting.
Chances are you’ll be smelling the chulent cooking into itself throughout the night and your mouth will be watering by the time you come home from shul shabbat morning.
Enjoy and while you can’t send us pictures of your shabbos day chulent itself, take some shots of your prep work or the empty pot after Shabbos and send them over for us to see.