Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Ideas for the Cook - Cookware

The Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot with a tight fitting lid comes in many sizes and shapes. If I could only have one piece of cookware it would be a Le Creuset Pot. We visited France last year and stayed with our Vashon friend Ann Donaldson in her home in Normandy. I cooked the whole week 3 meals a day most days using all the fabulous fresh French ingredients that make visiting France such a sensual pleasure. The only piece of cookware I used the whole week was a Le Creuset pot - Sauteing, frying, braising, roasting, baking bread, boiling water, literally you can use this pot for 100% of your cooking needs.

What's so great about it? 1. the heavy cast heats up and retains heat as only cast iron can. 2. The enamel finish makes clean up a breeze -I hate taking care of raw cast iron. From a cleanup point of view this stuff is as good or better than nonstick (which you really don't want to use but that is another story). 3. The pot can go from stove top to oven to table. Many ingredients reach their peak potential only by starting on the stove top and finishing in the oven - everything from grilled meats to freshly baked bread. 4. The tight fitting lid allows for low, slow braising or confit of meats and makes the perfect moist "oven" within the bone dry air of your main oven for baking the perfect loaf of bread (you heat the pot on the stove top on high with the bread in in for 2-3 minutes before sticking the whole thing in the oven - to get a hot pot for oven spring). 5. Unlike raw cast iron you can cook anything, including acid foods without having to re-season your cookware and there are no rust problems- another 2 things I hate about raw cast iron.

The Le Creuset comes in many sizes and colors and is available at Amazon, Macy's and many other places. they are expensive but last a lifetime and replace most of your old crappy cookware with one item. I prefer the large oval baker as it can handle a big cassoulet, large pot blanching, a big pot of chili,and a 2 kilo loaf of sourdough dread with ease - or cook a single fried egg.

Despite what conventional wisdom says Harold Mcgee (my personal choice of food scientist info) has proved that on the stove top cast iron including Le Creuset does not heat evenly. The part of the pot directly over the burner can be up to 100 degrees hotter than the edge of the bottom of the pan. You can either really screw up or use that to your advantage. When searing meats for a braise you want to not only not crowd the pan (common wisdom) but you also want to only use the center of the pan. When cooking bacon or sausages or things that tend to cook unevenly move the more done pieces to the edges and the less done to the center. In the oven however the cast iron pot with a lid on is PERFECT for even heat - unlike many other thinner pots.

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