Understanding the Simplicity and Benefits of Cocottes and Dutch Ovens
With the holiday season in full swing, it’s hard to think a few weeks ahead when life will normalize and we will be back to cooking for our families instead of crowds. Soups and casseroles actually sound like a great alternative to the multi-course or multi-dish meals we have been enjoying since Thanksgiving.
To be entirely honest, I’m looking forward to several one-pot meals in January. Luckily, last Christmas I received the perfect piece of cookware to tackle all my favorite one-dish dinners: An enamel cast iron cocotte. Well, I call it a Dutch oven but we will get into that in a minute.
What is a cocotte?
As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is, “a shallow individual baking dish usually with one or two handles.” That definition is kind of like defining a dog: A mammal, usually with four legs and lots of energy – not very helpful. It’s what a cocotte can do that we are more interested in. Cocotte is simply a French term for what most Americans know as a Dutch oven. This fabulous cooking vessel can be used to braise, bake, stew, fry, sauté, and even boil.
Cocottes and Dutch ovens come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, weights, prices, and finishes. From an apple-shaped, 3-quart Lodge Dutch oven to a 9-quart round Staub cocotte, there’s likely an option for nearly any preference or application. And don’t forget, they are perfect for those one-pot meals.
Understanding the Cocotte and Dutch Oven Brands
Staub is known specifically for their built-in, natural simmering system. What this means is the construction of the cocotte actually self bastes. On the lid of Staub cocottes are many spikes that capture moisture from the steam of cooking, then drip the condensate back onto the food to keep it moist. This construction produces moisture-rich, well-flavored meals you don’t have to constantly tend.
Lodge is known in the industry as one of the oldest producers of cast iron cookware. With over a century of experience, they have mastered the art of cast iron cookware construction. From kitchen to campfire, Lodge has been put to the test. In 2005, Lodge began producing an enamel cast iron series but their Dutch ovens can still be purchased in traditional black cast iron.
Get Cooking with Your Cocotte
This weekend, I did a little practice run for my post-holiday meals. I unplugged from the world, turned off the cell phones, turned up the music, and took the time to cook an old favorite. A few hours and one pot later, I was thrilled I’d taken the time to escape the holiday craziness and prepare a comfy, savory pot full of gumbo. Yes, it takes a bit of time and effort, but when the dishes are so few it’s hard to complain about the process.
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2 medium yellow onions
- 2 ½ cups fresh or frozen okra (chopped)
- 2 green bell peppers (chopped)
- 6 stalks celery (chopped)
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 8 cups water
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 4 raw chicken breasts (chopped, bone and skin removed)
- 2 pounds Andouille sausage (sliced into ¼-inch thick slices)
- 4 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
- 6 cloves garlic (minced)
The first order of business is preparing the roux. Begin by browning the flour in your 7- to 9-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir continuously until the flour is the color of a cashew nut, then remove it from the pot and set aside.
Next, bring 8 cups of water and 4 cups chicken broth to a boil. Once boiling, slowly whisk in the roux until fully combined. Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, add in onion, okra, peppers, celery, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and Cajun seasoning. Allow to simmer for an additional 30 minutes.
Lastly, add chicken and sausage and allow to simmer for an additional 60 minutes.
At this point, taste your gumbo and add any additional Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper, or anything you wish to add.