We stumbled across these beauties after church one lazy Sunday afternoon, in one of those tired old malls that nobody ever goes to.
We fell in love.
They were on sale… double sale. I had been looking for a Dutch oven for awhile and then this beauty showed up. We debated on the Dutch oven and the cast iron skillet for awhile, then came to the conclusion that Ben would get the cast iron skillet and I the Dutch oven.
I seasoned them right away.
So far I have not been able to get over the excitement of all the glorious things they can make. From stews to braises to breads to cakes to pork chops to… sitting on the stove top, in the oven, over hot stones on a fire like in adventure stories.
We are both so excited. This, friends, is an investment. Yes it needs some TLC (tender love and care, as I learned this summer), but is it worth it? Yes if it can be passed on for generations. They also retain high temperatures and cook evenly. And add to our health. As I learned from Ben’s Mom, the low amount of iron that passes from the pot and skillet gives our bodies what we need in just the right amount of iron. They are also chemical free, with no harmful chemicals leaching into our food. The seasoning makes them non-stick cooking tools.
The first dish I christened the Dutch oven with was a lamb dish, braised in red wine. As autumn nipped my nose, I got the tingles all over for stews, root vegetables, hearty (but cheap) hot dinners to warm up with. To be fair, summer isn’t quite over, but it’s funny how the first gust of cold air evokes such warm thoughts.
Since I started working close to Greek town, I had a hankering to try my hand at cooking lamb. So after work one day, I visited the lamb butchers. Friendly folk, they were just about to close but waving off my apology and “I’ll come back later,” they asked how they could be of help. I asked for two lamb shanks, seeing that they were on sale at half price. I had no idea what I was getting into, and was shocked to see how big each shank was (though it’s not actually that big once you cook it up). So I asked for one, and gladly accepted when the butcher offered to chop it up.
First I marinaded it. I added some minced garlic, a little red wine, 1/2 a bay leaf, cracked and spread over the meat, black pepper, salt, and oregano.
First I brushed a layer of vegetable oil over the bottom of the pot, then heated it up. Once the oil had started smoking, I added the chunks of lamb shank to brown on high heat.
Having done that, I removed the shanks and deglazed the pot with a little water and olive oil, scrubbing it with a wooden spatula to help it along. It’s important to keep this step since, as I learned, it creates base for flavour.
I realised pretty quickly that I needed a carbohydrate and vegetables to bulk up the meal if it were to stretch beyond a single dinner for two. So I put the rice cooker on and added garlic, 1 onion, baby potatoes, carrots, and parsnips. As with most foods involving onions and garlic, fry that up first. Then make room for the lamb.
I brought the braise to a boil (added some more wine and water), then turned it down, letting it simmer, covered. As enticing as the aroma wafting from the pot may be, you (and your housemates, or whoever you live with – the cat, perhaps,) ought to keep the lid on for at least two hours, as its the small amount of liquid and steam that tenderises and cooks everything.
The meat was literally falling off the bones by the time we scooped up our rice and loaded our dishes with carrots, parsnips, onions, potatoes, lamb and all its glorious drippings. Even the tendons were soft and wonderful.
Save the bones! I put mine in a bag and placed it in the freezer. I guess I’m starting a bone bank. A bone bank for broth. Tehe.
The finished meal was a delicious thing. It fed Ben and I dinner and lunch the next day (granted there wasn’t much left in terms of meat and veg, so more rice was required), and two housemates (they got mini plates). Here it is, Ben’s plate. It was a real treat.
Ingredients for Marinade:-
– 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup wine red wine
– 1 tbsp dried oregano
– salt and pepper (pinch)
– 1/2 tbsp garlic
– 1 bay leaf
Ingredients for Everything Else:-
– 1 tbsp vegetable oil
– 1.5 tbsp olive oil
– 1 lamb shank, chopped
-1 onion, sliced
– 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks (my chunks were too small, carrots shrink, so you want slightly larger than just bite-sized)
– 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
– 7 baby potatoes rinsed
– salt and pepper to taste
- Marinade ingredients overnight (or for a couple of hours)
- Spread the vegetable oil across the base of pot. Heat till the oil is smoking slightly.
- Drain marinade (but reserve the liquid). Brown lamb, about 5 minutes per side.
- Remove lamb and set aside. Quickly add 1/2 cup water and olive oil to deglaze bottom of pot. Scrape off the excess until brown bits turn up. Leave this in the pot. Be very careful with steam that comes up.
- Fry up onions until slightly caramelized (slightly brown, and sweet to smell and taste), the add rest of the vegetables.
- Return the lamb to the pot with all its drippings, remaining marinade, 1/3 cup red wine, 1/4 cup water. Cover.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for at least 2 hours.
- Serve with rice.
Helpful tips: Wear a long sleeve shirt to protect your arms in case oil droplets splatter over you and open windows to let steam/smoke out. You don’t want to accidentally set off the fire alarm. In case you were wondering, the fire department did not come. 🙂