This is my move-over-cholent recipe. Don’t get me wrong, I make cholent all the time. It’s just that, Shabbos rolling in every week Thank Gd, I look for all possible variations on the cholent theme. As it is, I have a mega chapter on My Cholent and all Variations, in my cookbook and on my blog, take a look! But I thought I would add one variation on the Cholent theme, meaning, overnight and in a crockpot, looking more like a soup. More to the point, I wanted to make this “cholent” variation totally vegetarian, allowing me to make meat and poultry dishes distinct from the meat usually found in cholent (that said, no problem making this a meat soup. Read on)
Every year my husband and I host a big bash on Simchat Torah. Except when it falls as it did this year on Friday, we host it the very next day, Shabbos lunch. This past Shabbos coming as a grand finale to a long month of festivities with each part lasting three consecutive days, I thought to give all our guests a badly needed reprieve from the usual meat and poultry fare, and went with an all vegetarian and fish menu (I will be posting that whole menu with recipes in just a couple days). One of the dishes that got wiped out first was a fantastic vegetable soup. So it’s my move over cholent. I loved that the broth stayed clear and tasted so incredibly rich, and how the vegetables retained their bright color. The inclusion of the Moroccan seasonings, the squash and the chestnuts or dates give the soup some pleasing Sephardi overtones which produce a deeply flavored soup that need no help whatsoever from meat or poultry. Perfect for Passover too!
Since I had almost fifty guests, and it was served buffet style, the logistics of serving chunky (shabbos: No blender) hot soup had to be carefully thought out. My large (9 quart) crockpot not being large enough for my headcount, I decided to use my extra large stainless steel 15 quart pot, and place it on a low flame just before Shabbos. A few initial considerations informed my final selection of ingredients:
- Don’t use beans: Too close to cholent. Not enough of a departure. Brown rice, chickpeas, aduki or mung beans might be OK, as they don’t get everything cloudy. In this case use 2 cups raw and skip the chestnuts listed in the recipe. (Passover: No beans no legumes)
- Low maintenance. Soup I could just throw in a pot and forget all about. No sauteing or frying or anything. After dicing everything, I considered my labor done, and so will you!
- Use only vegetables that will stand to the long cooking time: In other words, no zucchini, peas, string beans, cabbage etc.
- Use ingredients that would yield a clear broth, not release starch that would cloud the soup.
- Don’t use any tomato product, except maybe 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste to deepen the color (I didn’t use any). Like chocolate, tomatoes tend to dominate a dish and blow all other ingredients out of the water, excuse the pun.
That said, the recipe still remains pretty elastic, in that you can adjust the amounts of each vegetable you are using to suit your personal taste. If you want to make this a meat soup, go ahead and throw in 2-3 pounds beef chunks. Still I would say, don’t skimp on the mushrooms, or the squash, these two are too delightful to reduce. I am adapting the amounts I used to an 8-9 quart pot:
- 1 pound chunk kabocha or butternut squash, or a little more, no peeling necessary, diced small
- 1 large carrot, diced small
- 1 large turnip, diced small
- 1 large parsnip, diced small
- 1 large yukon gold potato, or other not-too-starchy potato, diced small
- 2 large leeks, sliced
- 1 5-ounce pack peeled vacuum-packed roasted chestnuts, crumbled, or a dozen large pitted dates, sliced
- 4 ribs celery, peeled, sliced thin
- 1 pound shitaki caps, sliced thin
- Optional but really delicious: Any stems (repeat: Just the stems, not the leaves) from a bunch of kale or Swiss chard whose leaves you used for another dish, thinly sliced.
- 1 head garlic, peeled, cloves left whole
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 2 good pinches saffron
- 1 large sprig rosemary
- 1 large sprig tarragon
- 4-5 bay leaves, or 1 teaspoon ground
- Salt to taste (add pepper just before serving, or the broth will turn acrid)
Place all ingredients in a large crockpot, and cover with water to full capacity. Set on low, and plug just before shabbos. If it is for a weekday, forget about Cholent stand-ins. plug in the morning, and enjoy for dinner. Adjust seasonings and add pepper to taste.