If my house ever caught on fire, I wouldn’t be scrambling for my wedding album or my jewelry box. Of course I’d rescue my husband and pets, but the one item I’d fight to save is my enamel-coated cast-iron Dutch oven. I can’t imagine my life without it. It’s the perfect vessel for cooking up a warming winter supper. It conducts heat evenly, which is perfect for braising. It goes from stovetop to oven with ease and the enamel surface makes it a breeze to clean.
Some Dutch ovens can be on the expensive side, but the truth of the matter is that many of them last forever and if they don’t, many companies will send you a replacement. Mine has taken a lot of abuse and it keeps on ticking. In fact, if I did have a house fire, I wouldn’t be surprised if my Dutch oven was the last thing left standing. But I wouldn’t take any chances.
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Here are a few of my favorite one-pot recipes that I love to cook in my Dutch oven:
Ragout of Pork & Prunes Pork shoulder is an inexpensive and juicy cut that lends itself to roasting, grilling and braising. Here it's paired with prunes, which is a natural marriage of flavors, but you can also use butternut squash combined with a few dried apricots. Serve with polenta and roasted carrots.
Braised Paprika Chicken Sweet Hungarian paprika gives this creamy braised chicken the best flavor. This is a good “pantry dish” since you should have the basics on hand and only need to purchase the chicken. You may vary the recipe by using cubed veal shoulder instead of chicken and mushrooms instead of peppers. Serve with whole-wheat orzo flavored with minced parsley or dill.
Thai Bouillabaisse This flavorful seafood soup combines elements of the famous French bouillabaisse with the distinct Thai flavors of lemongrass, lime, ginger and hot chiles. Use two chile peppers if you like heat. Be sure to simmer, not boil, the soup or the seafood will be overcooked. Serve with a crusty whole-grain baguette to soak up the broth.
Chicken in Garlic-Vinegar Sauce Braising chicken in vinegar and herbs is a very popular way of cooking in Mediterranean Europe. Often paired with sweet sausage, this is a gutsy, wholesome dish that can be made a day ahead. Serve with whole-wheat couscous tossed with fresh herbs and steamed broccolini.
Pinto Bean & Andouille Sausage Stew
An adaptation of the Andalusian dish fabada, this pinto bean stew is seasoned with andouille sausage, bacon, tomatoes, onions, peppers and smoked paprika. Fans of spicy beans should use the full amount of minced chile pepper (or more). Serve with brown rice and sour cream.