Whether you call it chamim, sk'eena, adafina, or cholent, this popular Jewish Sabbeth luncheon stew is one of those dishes that has always distinguished Jewish cooking since at least the fourth century A.D. It was at this time that rabbis, in their written doctrine called the Mishnah, explained how they created chamim, a hot food. On late Friday afternoon(when it is prohibited to light fires because one must rest on the Sabbath) the dish was to be covered and put in the hot oven.
When the Jews left the Iberian Peninsula, they brought with them
the tradition of these Sabbath stews slowly simmered over embers
in the fire. For centuries on Friday mornings they would assemble
a comination of fava beans or chick-peas, onions, garlic, and meat,
sometimes marrow bones, in a pot with water. The dish was covered
with a cloth or a mixture of flour and water to form a crust. It
started cooking on Friday before sunset and was left to warm all
night over coals in a hot oven, which was often sealed with lime
to preserve heat. The next day they opened the pot in time for luch
Every wave of Jewish immigration to the Americas has its own form of cholent, which is experiencing a rebirth amongst the religious and non-religious alike. Today there are cholent purists who think that only meat, onions, and beans will do. Others make chicken cholent, vegetarian cholents, Crock-Pot versions, and ones with Indian spices in them. Both salsa and ketchup have been added as flavorings, and leftovers are great for tortilla fillings. In some areas that are heavily populated with Orthodox Jews, local kosher supermarkets offer a cholent meat special on Fridays.