It can be difficult to find the motivation to cook sometimes. Even though I love to cook, sometimes I am just too tired to deal with it. I am pregnant with number 11, after all, and I am in my third trimester. This is when I turn to my Dutch oven for dinner. The French have fabulous methods for slow cooking various meats and they produce better results than the American boiled meat methods. The really nice thing about a well made, enameled Dutch oven is that is does not let moisture out so that means you need less moisture in the pot. The less liquid that you use, the more intense the flavors of your meal will be.
Here are some handy tips that will help you turn whatever meat and vegetables you have available into a delicious, easy, watches-itself meal for winter.
1. Brown the meat. This deepens the flavor as well as contributes to attractive color. Sometimes braised meats look pale and half the flavor of a meal is the appearance. Use a small amount of fat (I often use bacon fat) to brown large cuts or whole birds which have been salted and sprinkled with pepper. In this case, I browned a whole boneless leg of lamb in bacon fat. Once the meat is browned, set it aside.
2. Brown the aromatics. This is the fancy way of saying onions and garlic but it is also a good time to toss in mushrooms or carrots. I like to leave the carrots larger and put them in later but if you like a fine dice (maybe the kids like it) put it in the pot with a bit more fat. If you are using mushrooms, add salt to draw out the water and it will make its own lovely liquid for braising and deglazing.
3. Deglaze the fond. This is the fancy way of saying, add enough wine, beer, bone broth or water to cover the veggies in the bottom of the pot and stir up the delicious crispy bits known as fond.
4. Over the aromatics, add herbs. Pop in a few bay leaves (I use tons) and sprigs from my rosemary tree.
5. Over the herbs add potatoes and carrots. These root vegetables take a long time to cook and need to be closer to the bottom of the pot.
6. Place your cut of meat in last and pour in any accumulated liquid from its rest. You really do not need a lot of liquid to cook your meat, it will be fine, I promise. Place the Dutch oven in a cold oven and set it to 325F and walk away for at least ninety minutes. Depending on the amount of meat in your pot, it may take two hours but when you return you will have moist, delicious meat with concentrated flavors and a surprising amount of au jus in the bottom of the pot.
If you are having a lot of guests, you can increase the meat and cook the root vegetables separately. Cover them liberally with fat and salt and then place in a stainless steel pan with low sides, like a sheet. The goal is to allow the steam to evaporate and not concentrate like high sides cause. Pop it in the oven on the rack under the Dutch oven and cook just as long as the pot. Using the sheet method, the vegetables will carmelize and soften and be amazing and crispy on the outside but still soft and moist on the inside.
Looking for a soup tutorial to make whatever ingredients you have into a rich and delicious soup for winter? Mine is HERE. You should probably have some delicious bread to go with it, so check out my Idiot Proof Sourdough Bread HERE or my Sprouted Flour Biscuits HERE. If you have never tried baking on a stone, biscuits come out absolutely fabulous. See my tips for baking on a stone HERE.
Linking up with Real Food Wednesday!