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Slow cooking: the Jewish connection
by Linda Morel, Special to The Chronicle
Feb 09, 2017 | 2559 views | 1 1 comments | 107 107 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo of Irish Stew or Guinness Stew made in a crockpot or slow cooker..
Photo of Irish Stew or Guinness Stew made in a crockpot or slow cooker..
slideshow
If you’ve ever walked into a house where a slow cooker is infusing the air with tantalizing aromas, you understand why the Crock-Pot has been a staple in American homes for more than 40 years.

Cooks love this appliance because they can prepare the evening meal after breakfast and not lift a finger until dinner. But did you know slow cookers have a Jewish origin?

Their inventor, Irving Naxon, grew up listening to his mother tell stories about cholent, a bean-based Sabbath stew that cooks all day, a traditional dish among Jews from Central and Eastern Europe.

Every Friday evening, the Jewish women in his mother’s Lithuanian village assembled meat, potatoes, vegetables and beans in heavy pots and brought them to the bakery. As the oven was turned off for the Sabbath, the pots were placed inside so they could simmer in waning heat and provide a warm meal the following night.

In 1936, Naxon applied for a patent for a food-heating machine featuring an insert that distributed heat evenly. By 1940, he received a patent and named his machine the Naxon Beanery. In the 1970s, Naxon sold his design to Rival Manufacturing, which marketed it as the Crock-Pot — and the rest is history.

While there are other electric slow cookers available, the Crock-Pot remains the best-known product in the category. Today, many Jewish women use this appliance to make cholent.

But it is a miracle machine that can produce sumptuous meals from coq au vin to barbecued turkey. During the winter, the scent wafting from a Crock-Pot brings back memories of your grandmother tending a gently simmering stew, which made you hungry for dinner all day.

Precautions: Follow the instructions that come with your slow cooker. It should not be more than three-quarters full. Do not exceed recommended usage time.

Short Ribs Cholent

(Meat) Serves 4-6

3    pounds bone-in short ribs

    Kosher salt to taste

    Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1    tablespoon vegetable oil

4-5    large carrots, peeled, rinsed

    and cut into sticks

1    onion, diced

4    cloves of garlic, minced

2    potatoes peeled, rinsed and diced

1     turnip, peeled, rinsed and diced

1     (15.5-ounce) can of pinto beans,

    rinsed under cold water and drained

3     cups of beef broth

With a sharp knife, trim as much fat as possible from the short ribs. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet on a medium flame. Sear the ribs in the oil, until browned on all sides.

Spoon the carrots and onions into the slow cooker. Cover with the short ribs. Sprinkle the garlic on top. Add the potatoes and turnips, spreading evenly. Spoon the beans over the top. Pour in the beef broth.

Place the lid on the slow cooker. Set it on low. Do not lift the lid for two hours. Slow cook for 6½ hours. Raise the setting to high. Simmer for another 3 hours. The meat should be falling off the bones, and the potatoes should be tender.

Removing fat from the sauce 2 ways:

To serve immediately: With a slotted spoon, move the contents of the slow cooker to a large bowl. Ladle the sauce into a Ziploc gallon-size bag and seal. Lay the bag on a counter next to the bowl of cholent contents. Lift one corner and snip off the tip of the corner. Close that opening with two fingers. With your other hand, raise the zipper side and tilt the bag toward the snipped corner. The fat, which is lighter in color, will rise to the top. Over the bowl, gently release your fingers enough to let the sauce slowly drip into the bowl. Quickly close the opening with your fingers, preventing fat from pouring into the bowl.

To serve the next day (this is a better method for fat removal): With a slotted spoon, move the contents of the slow cooker to a large pot. Cover and refrigerate. Ladle the sauce into a heatproof bowl. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it until the fat hardens at the top of the bowl. With a spoon, chip off the fat and discard. The sauce will be jelled. Move the sauce into the pot with the meat and vegetables. Heat on a low flame until warm enough to eat.

    

Coq Au Vin

(Meat) Serves 6

3½    cups beef broth

2    tablespoons flour

5    leeks

6    skinless chicken thighs with

    the bone in

4    tablespoons olive oil, or more

    if needed

½    pound mushrooms, rinsed and sliced

2    shallots, diced fine

6    cloves of garlic, minced

    Kosher salt to taste

    Freshly ground black pepper to taste

¼    teaspoon thyme

¼    cup Chianti, merlot or pinot noir

    wine

Optional accompaniments: noodles/rice Bring a cup of beef broth to a slow boil. Remove it from the flame. Sprinkle in the flour, stir with a spoon and then whisk until the lumps dissolve. Add the remaining 2½ cups of broth and whisk. Reserve.

Cut off and discard the green end of the leeks. If the outer layer of the white end is tough, discard that, too. Cut the white part in half vertically, rinse under cold water and drain on paper towels. Cut horizontally into ½-inch thick circles. Reserve.

Rinse the chicken under cold water and drain on paper towels. Reserve.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil briefly on a medium-low flame. Add the leeks, mushrooms, shallots and garlic. Sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Spoon into a bowl and reserve. Once the skillet cools, wipe it with a paper towel to remove all bits of the leek mixture.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet. Move the chicken to the skillet. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Use salt sparingly as the bouillon contains salt. Brown the chicken on both sides.

With a slotted spoon utensil, move the chicken to the slow cooker. Add the leek mixture, along with the thyme. Stir the broth with a spoon and add it to the slow cooker, along with the wine. With a spoon, move the ingredients around so the chicken is submerged.

Place the lid on the slow cooker. Turn to the high setting for 3 hours, or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve immediately with noodles or rice, if using.

Beef stew for a cold

winter night

(Meat) Serves 4-6

2    medium-size parsnips

8    medium-size carrots

1    turnip, peeled and diced

1    small onion

1    shallot

2    cloves of garlic

3    cups beef broth

2    tablespoons flour

4    tablespoons olive oil

2    pounds beef chuck cut into

    stew meat size

    Kosher salt to taste

    Freshly ground black pepper

1    8-ounce can tomato sauce

¼    cup Chianti, merlot, or pinot noir

    wine

2    bay leaves

¼    teaspoon thyme

Optional accompaniments:

    noodles or rice

Peel the carrots and parsnips, rinse them under cold water and drain them on paper towels. Scrape off the outer layer and cut into sticks about 2 inches long. Peel, rinse and dice the turnip. Reserve.

Peel the onion, shallot and garlic and chop fine. Reserve.

Bring 1 cup of beef broth to a slow boil. Remove it from the flame. Sprinkle in the flour, stir with a spoon and then whisk it until the lumps dissolve. Add the remaining 2 cups of broth and whisk. Reserve.

On a medium-low flame, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, shallot and garlic. Sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Spoon it into a small bowl and reserve.

Once the pan is cool, wipe it with a paper towel to remove all bits of the onion mixture. Heat an additional 2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet on a medium flame. Add the beef chuck and spread it evenly around the skillet. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Use salt sparingly because the broth contains salt. Sear the meat on all sides.

With a slotted spoon utensil, move the meat to the slow cooker. Add the onion mixture, parsnips, carrots and turnips. Stir the broth and pour it into the slow cooker, along with the tomato sauce and wine. Add the thyme and bay leaves. With the slotted spoon, gently stir the ingredients so the liquids mix together.

Place the lid on the slow cooker, and set it on low. Do not open for 2 hours. Simmer on the low setting for 3 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.

To remove fat from the sauce, see the two methods described above.

    

Slow cooker barbecued turkey

(Meat) Serves 6

2     small to medium onions

3     tablespoons corn oil

2½-3 pounds turkey breast, skinned

1     20.2-ounce bottle of your favorite         barbecue sauce

½    cup beer

1/3    cup water

Optional accompaniments:

    baked potatoes and coleslaw

Peel the onions. Slice them thin into circles. With your fingers, separate the circles into rings of onions. In a large skillet, heat the corn oil on a medium flame. Sauté until the onions are golden brown. Do not burn. Reserve.

Rinse the turkey under cold water, and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the turkey into the slow cooker. Cover it with the onions. Pour the beer on top.

Empty the barbecue sauce into the slow cooker. Pour the water into the barbecue sauce bottle. Close the bottle and shake it vigorously to release any sauce stuck inside. Pour it into the slow cooker. With a spoon utensil gently mix together the liquids.

Place the lid on the slow cooker. Simmer on low for 4 hours until the turkey is cooked.

Slice and serve the turkey on a rimmed platter. Drizzle some sauce over the turkey and spoon the remainder into a gravy boat. Serve with baked potatoes and coleslaw, if using.

Linda Morel is a columnist for the Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication of The Jewish Chronicle.
Comments
(1)
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Lenore Naxon
|
February 10, 2017
This information is a reprint of a reprint of a reprint regarding my father Irving Naxon. It is pretty close to being accurate.

We love seeing his story told as the crockpot has become an integral part of the American kitchen and it is great that people know that it has Jewish roots. BTW, Naxon was originally Nachumsohn. He literally "exed" out the middle.

Thanks,

Lenore Naxon