The weather couldn’t be colder for this year’s Cholent Cookoff, the first deep chill of the season this second weekend of February 2016, but we still had 35+ who came out to taste, enjoy and vote on this year’s Cholent Cookoff entries at Shabbos House.

What made this year’s entries different? First of all, 3 out of 5 were vegetarian – vegan actually – which is a first in our several years of Cholent Cookoffs. And the ingredient list this year included some highly unusual cholent ingredients.

The winner was CARDIO CHOLENT by Ben I. A vegetarian entry, it had great texture and taste, its primary ingredients were baked beans, which is how it got its name, from the song: “Beans are good for your heart.” Ben is a long-time Cholent Cookoff contestant throughout his undergraduate years, and finally came in first place in this year of graduate school. Congratulations Ben!

The runner-up was TABLETOP CHOLENT by Larry G. This was the only Cholent of the five not made from a recipe, rather it was just thought of by Larry, and it had some very unusual ingredients. It was inspired by South American cooking, Mesa-American if you will, which is how we ended up with the name Tabletop Cholent, Mesa as in table. The coolest ingredient was dark chocolate, which added (along with a complex mix of other ingredients like Chili Powder, red pepper flakes and cinnamon) a delicious flavor to the meat inside. Some students especially enjoyed the few marrow bones in this Cholent, too.

Speaking of meat cholents, our rookie entry was SAUSAGE SUPREME, by AJ T, a freshman at UAlbany who always steps up to the plate. This Cholent had both meat and sausage (the latter being especially appealing to the Rubin kids) and was filled with chickpeas and carrots. Although it didn’t win one of the top two slots, it was one of the most polished-off Cholents of all.

DON’T DRIVE ME NUTS was a vegan entry by Rachel L. This was a wonderfully seasoned desserty-type of Cholent filled with raw unsalted cashew nuts (and other ingredients), which softened and moistened after being in the slow-cooker from Friday to Saturday. It was a yummy treat and many said that the cashews had a totally different taste than expected.

This vegetarian/vegan entry by Anna M. was dubbed COOKED WITH LOVE because its an Armenian recipe, and Armenians consider adding cinnamon to food as adding love to it. This recipe had a unusual blend of ingredients, including apricots and tahini and fresh mint. It had a hearty texture and a unique mix of flavors.

We thank all our participants and all our tasters for another wonderful Cholent Cookoff, which adds much flavor to Shabbos House each year, introduces us to new tastes and expands our Cholent horizons!