I use a lot of cremini mushrooms in my recipe, but any type of mushroom works to bring a rich, savory flavor to this dish. I also try to use the tastiest and most interesting beans available, many of them heirlooms from a California company called Rancho Gordo. You can use any type of dried beans; in fact, a mixture adds different colors, flavors and textures to the dish. I add a whole onion, which ends up falling apart, but is a good symbolic replacement for whole eggs, which are commonly used in meat cholent. The vegan sausage is an optional addition for those who want a meat substitute in texture and flavor. The kind I use (Field Roast brand) are made primarily with wheat and herbs.
- 3–4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 large pint mushrooms (3–4 cups), chopped
- 6–8 medium red potatoes, sliced
- 1–3 vegan sausages, sliced (optional)
- 1–1½ cups farro or barley
- 2–2½ cups mixture of dried beans* (no need to soak them)
- 3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- 1½ cups vegetable broth
- 4–5 cups water
- 1 white or yellow onion, peeled, but kept whole
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat a large pot, such as cast iron pot with a lid, over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add chopped onion and sauté until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms, maple syrup and a bit more olive oil (about ½ to 1 tablespoon). Mix well and cook for about five minutes until brown and fragrant.
- Add potatoes, sausages (if using), farro, beans and parsley. Mix well and cook for a few minutes. Then pour in water and broth. Mix well and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add whole onion and salt and pepper to taste. Add another tablespoon of olive oil. Mix well.
- Transfer all of the ingredients to a slow cooker on a low temperature, or put the cast iron pot in an oven heated to between 170 and 250 degrees (I did this at 170 degrees for 8 hours and then raised the temperature for 2 more hours). Cook it in the oven for a minimum of 8 hours. There should be plenty of liquid, but periodically check and add water and stir, as needed. It is ready when it is a thick stew mixture, without too much liquid. The temperature range is based on whether or not you will be able to check on the dish—that is, if you cannot check on it regularly during the 8 to 12 cooking hours, it’s best to cook it at a lower temperature to prevent drying and burning of the ingredients.
- * For this recipe, I used a colorful assortment of Rancho Gordo’s Alubia Blanco (white), Domingo Rojo (red), Vaquero (black and white), Flagolet (green) and Azu Frado (yellow).