According to the great Claudia Rodin (author of The Book of Jewish Food, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, and many others) the origins of the classic French Cassoulet and the traditional Jewish cholent are intermingled–and my version is a combination of the two. I have yet to meet someone who did not like this, even those who “don’t like cholent.” I make this in a huge (and very heavy) cast iron Dutch oven (8 quart), which fits nicely into our 90 cm (36 in) oven, but the recipe can easily be split into two smaller, more manageable casseroles, as long as you can fit them into your oven, or halved.
The marrow bones of the osso buco add richness, as does the fat from the goose breast, which is a nod to my father’s Hungarian origins. I don’t like the “gooey” effect of too much pearl barley, but a little adds nice texture. The beef stock adds to the overall very rich umami experience. I like large white beans, reminiscent of cassoulet, as they hold their shape and become luscious with long cooking. Another nod to cassoulet is the addition of sausage.
Wine Recommendation: The bright Yarden Sauvignon Blanc or rich Yarden Chardonnay could offer a nice contrast, but I generally go for a lighter red such as Yarden Pinot Noir. Yarden Syrah also makes a good pair as the natural smoky element of the wine connects to the subtle smokiness of the cholent that comes from the goose breast and paprika.
We like to have a mixed green salad along with the cholent.
4.4 lbs osso buco cut into 0.7 inches thick slices (by the butcher)
2 smoked one half goose breasts/duck (about 600 g), cut crosswise into 0.4 inches slices
2.2 lbs sausage (I use beef/lamb/pistachio sausage, locally produced), cut into 4 inches lengths
1.1 lbs large dry white beans, soaked for about 12 hours in water
1 whole head of garlic, separated into whole peeled cloves
3.3 lbs new red potatoes, washed
Eggs (as many as you can fit in, try one per person)
4 onions, chopped
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 cup pickled pearl onions, whole, drained
3.5 ounces pearl barley
¼ cup decent red wine for deglazing
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Smoked Paprika to taste
1. Brown the slices of goose in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet (you can do this directly in the Dutch oven, but I find it easier this way). You need no oil, as the goose fat quickly renders itself. Set aside.
2. Brown the osso buco in the goose fat. Set aside.
3. Brown the sausage in the same pan, set aside.
4. Add the onions and shallots and sauté in the remaining fat, until lightly browned. Add a bit of olive oil if necessary. Set aside.
5. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, then transfer liquid to Dutch oven.
6. Make a thin layer at the bottom of the Dutch oven with a third of the beans and onion and barley, with a sprinkling of the spices.
7. Add a layer of half of the osso buco, sausage, eggs, and potatoes.
8. Add another layer of the beans, etc.
9. Add another layer of the meat, etc.
10. Finish with the remaining beans, etc. Depending on the size of the osso buco slices, eggs, and potatoes, it could be a challenge to fit everything in. Have an additional casserole on hand for the overflow, if any.
11. Fill with liquid until there’s about 2.5 cm (1 in) of liquid covering the ingredients. If you have enough beef stock, use that. If the beef stock is concentrated, use to taste and then use water to come to desired level. If you do not have stock, use water.
12. Bring to a boil and remove scum.
13. Cover with lid. If the lid does not fit tightly, there is a danger of the cholent drying out and burning overnight. You can add a doubled strip of aluminum foil between the dutch oven and lid to help seal.
14. Put overnight in a 230°F oven.
15. Serve the guests, and hear “oohs” and “ahhs.”
17. Take a nap.
By Victor Schoenfeld