The holidays have been a lot of fun coming together, making new friends, eating, not eating, eating in a temporary shelter and somewhere in all the midst of that, one really terrific brunch after my sister’s wedding. But I have to say, except for that brunch, I haven’t been doing too much cooking. And frankly I’ve missed it.
But the with the temperature dropping outside and a recent inspirational walk through a farmer’s market, I got creative trying out a new dish for a pot-luck lunch in a sukkah I attended this weekend. After a bit of debate, we named the dish an Autumn Cholent because I tried to incorporate the flavors of the fall into one easy-to-serve dish. And although it was tasty, I’m sure there is a lot of room to improve. So I’m looking for suggestions.
For my Autumn Cholent I picked up a couple of root vegetables at the farmer’s market. I grabbed a rutabaga, a couple of purple-topped turnips, a large parsnip, and fingerling potatoes. After cutting the veggies into roughly similar sized bite-sized chunks, I tossed them in olive oil and sea salt and spread the vegetables out flat on cookie sheets. I had preheated the oven to 400 degrees and put the vegetables in for at least an hour, checking them and stirring them occasionally so they would cook evenly.
When the vegetables were nearly done (after about 45 minutes or so) I started cooking two cups of dried lentils in two quarts of unfiltered apple juice. I also cored and peeled four small apples and threw them into the pot as well. I cooked the lentils until they were soft and almost all of the liquid was absorbed. When the vegetables were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside (also known as done) I tossed them into the pot with the lentils. I simmered until everything was fully-cooked (taste testing to be sure).
The dish got rave reviews at the pot-luck, although I’m not sure my solicitation, “I made up this recipe, what do you think?” produced an unbiased response. I was attempting something sweet and savory at the same time – the starchiness of the root vegetables against the sweeter apple-infused lentils. But I couldn’t help but feel there was a lot more that could be done with this idea. Would adding beets have made the dish overly sweet? (and red beets obviously would have turned everything pink) Was there a type of squash I could have added that wouldn’t have become too mushy? What if I had cooked the lentils in a mushroom stock? Would it have produced a nice woodsy flavor but layered with the apples? I think there is a lot that could happen with a dish like this. So, like I said, I’m open to suggestions.