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Everything’s going to pot

The essence of a one-pot meal is it is economical, dishwasher friendly and (if the recipe is right) brings people together. In this time of a subdued economy, the one-pot meal has brought me household savings and communion over the stove, both of which provide relief from what can otherwise be an unnerving time. So, with catharsis at stake, the choice of the pot in which the meal will be made is of utmost importance.

I bought my first Dutch oven in 2006 and have not stopped using it since. Aside from the sauté pans, this is the most used piece of equipment in my kitchen. I use it for sauces, risottos, soups, deep frying, browning meats, braising and even making rice.

Its qualities are the same as those found in a cast iron skillet because beneath its shiny enameled exterior is, in fact, cast iron which conducts heat evenly; its temperature reduces little when contents are added and it can go from stove top to oven.

The Dutch oven wins out over the cast iron skillet because of its high sides and smooth surface. The former quality, allows for the one-pot meal (where the skillet is good for only one dish really).

It also utilizes quite a few cooking methods from start to finish. One can sauté aromatics, brown meat, deglaze the pot, then put a lid on it and move it to the oven where it will finish cooking with a slow braise. One of my favorite one-pot dishes (presented here) uses all these methods and has been repeated time and again by friends because of its ease in preparation and wealth of flavor.

The choice of a Dutch oven is easy. Be sure it is made of cast iron and has a quality enamel seal. I have seen aluminum stock pots sold under the name of a Dutch oven, so buyers beware! The other nuances of Dutch ovens are cost and design which are subject to the cooks pocketbook and preferences.

Mine is an avocado green, six quart, Mario Batali Italian Essentials, weighing in at 15.2 pounds with a price tag of $89.99. Also, the lid has self basting spikes which allow the steam to condense back into the pot during cooking. Both the lid and price is what won me over the Le Creuset which rings in at $230 sans the “basting” spikes.

Whichever Dutch oven you choose and recipes that are made in it, know that it will stand as a cornerstone of the kitchen, providing a place for food, friends and family to commune. And during rough times, it is this that keeps my moral up and stomach full.

bobby’s recipe

Chicken bouillabaisse

This recipe is derived from an Ina Garten recipe on The Barefoot Contessa and although these contents are not that of a traditional bouillabaisse, the recipe protocols are the same.

6 chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry vermouth
14 ounces chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
The zest of 1/4 orange

In a six quart Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Increase heat to medium high and add in the chicken thighs, smooth side down. Brown the thighs on both sides (about five minutes per side) adjusting the heat as necessary, until golden brown and fond has formed on the bottom of the pot.

Remove the chicken thighs to a side plate, reduce heat to medium and add to the pot the diced onion. Sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, until translucent and slightly golden (about 10 minutes). Add in the garlic and continue to sauté for three minutes.

Separate the contents and liquid from the can of diced tomatoes.

Add in the diced tomato and sauté over high heat until the tomato has darkened in color (less than five minutes) adjusting the heat so that the onions and garlic will not burn.

Deglaze the pan with the dry vermouth, releasing all brown bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add in the chicken stock, canned tomato liquid, saffron threads, fresh thyme and the orange zest. Bring the liquid to a simmer; add back all the chicken thighs in a single layer being sure they are submerged (adding more chicken stock if necessary).

Put the lid on the pot and transfer to the middle rack of a 375 degree oven. Bake for 45 minutes.

In the meantime, make a faux rouille and crostinis

Mix together:

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 minced cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut quarter to half inch slices (on the bias) of a French baguette. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and paint (or drizzle) with olive oil. Set aside.

If you like a thicker stew, add a roux to the liquid

Gently melt two tablespoons butter in a small sauté pan until the foam subsides. Add in three tablespoons flour and sauté over medium heat until just barely browned. Set aside.

Remove the Dutch oven to the stove top uncovered. Adjust the heat so that the liquid is at a simmer, add in the roux and simmer until thickened.

Place the bread into the oven and bake until the desired crispness is reached (about four to six minutes for my liking).

To serve

Remove a chicken thigh to a shallow bowl using tongs. Spoon bouillabaisse liquid over the chicken thigh and top (in the middle) with a tablespoon of the faux rouille. Place three crostinis on the side of the bowl and serve.

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Posted by on Mar 10, 2011. Filed under Bobby R. Presents. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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