May 2, 2011

Beyond Beans and Barely - Cholent grabs the spotlight at Yeshiva University Event

New York… The well-documented popularity of cholent (the weekly stew served hot on Shabbat that has in recent years become a daily food as well) is perhaps one food that crosses all lines in the kosher market. Irrespective of the type of yarmulke or hat, cholent has become a popular staple that not only incorporates many versions from the Jewish experience in the Diaspora, but has even managed to become old-new gourmet foods. On April 7th, Yeshiva University did its share with its annual Cholent Cook-Off, which brought hundreds of devout enthusiasts of the Jewish Shabbat stew together to crown a cholent champion. The competition consisted of 16 teams, each comprised of four students, and was judged by the university president, Richard Joel, as well as wife Esther and several kosher cooking celebrities including Jamie Geller. The Cook-Off helped raise funds for a student run charity organization that helps support undergraduate scholarships at the university. The wining team, named Team Mofongo, featured a cholent with a balanced yet tongue tantalizing flavor, with strong notes of middle eastern influences, and overtones of cumin and barbeque sauce. The Cook-Off represents a growing trend in the Jewish world, where ethnic food is reinvented and embraced by culinary aficionados. With recipes for cholent cropping up in the New York Times and YouTube videos debating the merits of pre soaking beans, cholent has gone mainstream, from an obscure Talmudic era dish named Hamin, to a sophisticated stew savored by Shabbat observers, secular Jews, and even non-Jews.