Sólet (Cholent)

Bean stew topped with smoked duck breast, beef, and a halved egg.

Bean stew topped with smoked duck breast, beef, and a halved egg.

(Pronunciation: “Sho-let”)

Sólet, which apparently is the father of cholent, is a Jewish-Hungarian dish usually prepared on Friday nights before the sabbath, simmered overnight, and then eaten the next day for lunch. This was done to conform to Jewish laws that prohibit cooking on the sabbath. Now I’m not Jewish, but this was something I was pretty curious about because it involved cooking on very low heat in an oven for a long period of time, something I haven’t really done before.

The quality of this dish relies a lot on the meat you use. I used smoked duck breast and eye-round oven-roast beef for this, but this dish is also commonly prepared with smoked duck legs, smoked beef tongues, smoked goose meat, and sometimes even chicken. My recommendation is to use this dish when you have leftover meat you want to get rid of, but have at least 1 smoked meat item in there to really give it a good flavour. A lot of non-Jewish Hungarians would prepare this with pork meat including smoked ham hocks and kolbász (smoked Hungarian sausage), and you can if you want, but obviously if you’re Jewish you probably shouldn’t. I didn’t, and it came out pretty damn tasty.

So you could do this in an oven, on top of the stove, and some people even use a slow-cooker. Hungarians, myself included, probably won’t yell at you if you make it slightly differently than they do. I let mine sit in the oven at 200F for 3-4 hours, but you could definitely let it sit overnight and it’ll probably taste even better. It’ll also be less of a soup, and more like a bean casserole of sorts since the water will probably evaporate. Just make sure to put the meat in whole and cut only when it’s out of the oven, since if you cut the meat too early it’ll go all rubbery as it’ll cook too quickly. The other thing is; do not soak the beans beforehand! They’ll most likely explode by the time the raw meat finishes cooking. I didn’t soak mine and the beans were very mushy after just 3 hours. Just give them a simple rinse to remove the dirt and proceed with the recipe, which is as follows:

Ingredients (serves 4)
meat*
4 eggs
1 cup dry pinto beans or white/navy beans (200g)**
1/2 cup pearl barley (100g)
1 brown onion
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp Hungarian paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp lard, goose fat, olive oil, or duck fat (my personal favourite)***
salt to taste

Steps
1. Dice onions, mince garlic, and rinse your beans thoroughly. Melt your fat or heat up your oil in an oven-safe saucepan or casserole pan and cook the onions with any raw meats that you may want to sear at this point (only big pieces of meat; sliced meat would go all rubbery after it simmers for hours). Give the meat a good sear on medium-high heat until it’s got a nice colour all around.
2. Remove the pan from the heat, remove your meat from the pot and set it aside. Add in your garlic, dry beans (but not your pearl barley), paprika, pepper and flour. Shake the pan so all the beans get tossed and coated in the paprika and flour, then add the meat back into the pot along with any meats you didn’t sear, like smoked meat.
3. Fill the pan up with water until all the meat is covered. Preheat the oven to 200F, or the lowest temperature available (especially if you’re simmering overnight), then on the stove top bring the pot up to a boil before placing it into the preheated oven. (You could probably simmer this on the stove top too.)
4. Simmer in the oven for 3-4 hours until all the meat is cooked through, or overnight if you want to be traditional or if you’re actually cooking this for the sabbath.
5. Remove the pot from the oven, but don’t turn it off just yet. Remove the meat from the pan, slice it, then set it aside. Stir your pearl barley into the pot and rinse and add your whole eggs. If you want to cook your meat a little more, add that back into the pot as well, then place the pot back into the oven for another 30 minutes.
6. Remove the pot from the oven. You can turn it off now. Your eggs should be cooked all the way through, so cool the eggs down by rinsing them in cold tap water before peeling and halving them.
7. Portion out the beans and barley into bowls and serve the meat and eggs on a separate plate and let everybody serve themselves with whatever cuts of meat they like. Alternatively, if you used a presentable casserole pan, you could add your sliced meat and eggs on top and bring that to the dinner table, and then let everybody serve themselves!

Notes:
*Read the second paragraph in the introduction for notes on the meats you can use. At least one piece of smoked meat is recommended.
**I repeat, do not soak the beans beforehand!!! Third paragraph in the introduction explains why.
***I love duck fat, but if you don’t have access to it like most people don’t, you can use any animal fat really. Olive oil is only for health nuts or for people who have nothing else, as I personally don’t like it very much in this dish. And don’t get me wrong, I do like olive oil, just not in this.

(solet, sholet)

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About Chef Treble

Feed me weird things.

Posted on January 15, 2016, in Beef & Lamb, Chicken & Turkey, Eggs & Dairy, Hungarian, Lunch and Dinner and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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