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Baby, it’s cold outside; time to use the dutch oven. What is a dutch oven and what’s the point of using it? A dutch oven can be used on top of the stove (direct heat), in the oven (indirect heat), and is pretty enough to serve at the table. Enameled cast iron is the most popular material for dutch ovens, since there is such a wide choice of colors. Le Creuset (made in France), Mario Batali, and Lodge all make attractive dutch ovens in various sizes.

The best recipes for dutch ovens are slow simmered meat and vegetable stews. The advantage is that the aromas make the house smell delicious. I can’t wait for dinner when dinner is made in a dutch oven. Dutch oven dinners are not necessarily dowdy; they can be very elegant, such as this classic French veal recipe:

Blanquette de Veau

  • 4 pounds veal breast, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 celery rib, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups veal stock
  • Sprig of thyme and bay leaf
  • 20 pearl onions
  • ½ pound mushrooms
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a dutch oven. In batches (don’t crowd the pan), brown the meat on all sides. Season with salt and pepper and nutmeg. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and sauté. Add the white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom. Add the thyme and bay. Add the stock, bring to a boil, and simmer for 45 minutes. Or, place the dutch oven in a 300-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Blanch the pearl onion and remove the skins. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and sauté the onions and mushrooms on high heat for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add to the stew.

Whisk together the yolks and cream. Pour off a couple of cups of liquid from the stew. While whisking the cream, pour in the hot cream. Put the sauce in a pan and cook on medium heat until slightly thickened (180 degrees). Do not let the sauce boil. Remove from heat and add to the stew off of the stove. Serve immediately.