Several times in my life, I've been asked the question, "If your kitchen was on fire, and you could only grab one thing, what would it be?" I usually say a fire extinguisher, but for the sake of this topic, I'll play along. For me, It would have to be my Staub dutch oven...and my main knife (MAC ultimate 10"). Yeah, I know, they say only ONE thing, but I don't care, I'll start on fire before I live without that knife. Pretty much all this week, I used a dutch oven to make dinner. With about 30 minutes (or less) of prep time, you can have a wonderful meal waiting for you by dinnertime.
The stew-type dish with pasta is a beef shank osso bucco. There is something so wonderful and beefy about shank meat. It is by no means tender, so you have to be patient, I like to think that the meat is just playing hard-to-get. One thing I did try differently here is a new trick with the marrow. traditionally, you leave it in the bones and simmer everything all together, scooping it out at the end and eating it on crusty bread. I wanted to try and give the entire dish as much flavor as I could so I soaked the bones (trimmed of the meat) in cold water for a while and then popped the marrow out. I made a garlic paste with a few garcloves and some kosh and then mashed the marrow in with all of that. After I had browned the meat and added my aromatics, I deglazed the pot with some wine and then added the marrow paste (along with a bit of tomato paste) and just kind of let the whole mixture dissolve and melt into itself as I scraped the bottom up with a wooden spoon. It was a really big payoff, the end result was a rich, velvety sauce that was bursting with beefy flavor and had a very glossy sheen.
I told you I was going to make cassoulet, right? Well, I did just that. I had made this before, but just used pork butt stewed in the dish from the beginning. This time, I wanted to smoke it first and then add it into the dish a couple of hours before it would be done. I really liked this method. Not only did it add a nice smoky flavor, but the texture was a lot better than the first time. ( Previously, I thought that the long braise kind of mushed up the pork a little, but that could obviously have been remedied by just adding the pork later). plus, I added quite a few "burnt ends" to the cassoulet. Man, I love those things! (don't worry, not actually "burnt", just a term used to describe the dark color and super smoky flavor.) A nice glug of fruity olive oil and a sprinkle of grey salt rounded out this dish nicely.
I saved back some of the smoked pork to use in the last dish. I made some carnitas with the leftover meat that was slowly braised with onions, garlic, peppers,cilantro, and tomatoes (and a bit of oj). cumin and chili powder also showed up and we topped that mix with some more cilantro and some avacado. Pretty easy stuff, even better that we made it out of leftovers. Your leftovers want to be eaten. It's their life's ambition. Instead of letting them get fuzzy in your fridge, get creative and see what you can make out of something you've already made.
STAUB la cocotte french oven: I have the 8qt, but I will be the first to admit that it is a little on the overkill side, size-wise. I would recommend picking up a smaller, 5-6 qt size if you don't already have one, unless, of course, you have a very large, hungry family.
about the cassoulet:
I would love to post a recipe here, but I kind of flew by the seat of my pants on this one so I don't really know exactly. I can tell you what I did though, as most of you already know your way around the kitch.
small diced three onions, 3 celery ribs (and a handful celery leaves),
red and yellow bell peppers, and minced some garlic.
sauteed all of this in olive oil over med-low heat until the vegetables start to break down/get some color 10-12 minutes, and then added about a cup of white wine and a healthy glob of tomato paste, mixed it all up and let it simmer and reduce for 5 minutes. I then added some fresh parsley, salt and peps, thyme, sage, and savory (all dried...all eye-balled, but prob a couple tsps.), and some sausages (your choice). Let the sausages cook for another 5, and then added some dried beans (I used white beans about 2 cups, soaked (for about 4 hours) and drained), chicken stock to cover, and some of the shredded smoked pork butt. I put this into a 350F oven for a couple of hours and that was that. Sorry, I swear that I will start paying more attention soon...if anyone wants to make this, but is uncomfortable with the shoddy recipe, just let me know and I'll try to post a better one...maybe I'll just do that anyway...but later. piece