Sunday, November 16, 2008

Going Dutch

Every once in a while I run across a recipe that calls for a Dutch oven. A Dutch oven is a cast iron pot used to make casseroles, stews, and dishes that start on the stove and finish in the oven. The recipes always sounded delicious (I'm a sucker for a good stew), but I either avoided them or revised them to be done entirely on the stove.
But why shouldn't I have a Dutch oven? I have a fully stocked kitchen and an affinity for stew. I own an immersion blender, an ice cream maker, and a crockpot. The Dutch oven should have been acquired years ago but I finally got one a couple of weeks ago.
It's the kind of pot you "season" by never washing it with soap and letting it take on a dark black, smooth and shiny appearance, as if it were non-stick. Per Wikipedia, "When properly cared for, a Dutch oven is good for decades or even centuries of use."
Centuries of use? My great-great-grandchildren could be using my Le Creuset Dutch oven (which tags itself a French oven for branding purposes) with the seasonings from the meal I made tonight infusing the interior.
This first Dutch oven meal was a new twist on one of my favorite dishes: beef short ribs. The short ribs are marinated in spices, then browned on the stove. After adding garlic, onions, chicken broth, tomatoes, lime juice, and chipotle peppers to the pot, the short ribs are transferred from stove to oven to bake for 1.5 hours, then returned to the stove to reduce the sauce for another half hour. In the end you get tender meat and a silky, spicy sauce with depth.
I could have made this recipe entirely on the stove but I like to think that the Dutch oven added to the flavor. And I love a pot that can handle different cooking environments. No matter where you put it, it makes a damn fine stew.

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