Cooking Slow with Staub Cocottes

It’s the first cold week of the season – at least by west coast standards. In my house, early November’s first gusts tend to trigger a surge of uncharacteristic domesticity. Suddenly, I want to stay home and cook. I picture greeting my husband and daughter at the top of the stairs at the end of the day, smiling baby on my hip, a feast of autumn’s harvest spread upon our dining room table.

“Oh this?” I laugh blithely, untying my apron as they stare at the bounty in amazement, “Just something I threw together.”

This scenario is actually quite plausible when armed with the appropriate equipment. And if you cook with cast iron, you need not spend a day toiling over the stove. Slow cooking – lowish temperatures for a long time – is ideal for warm autumn/winter meals, it’s easy, and there’s only one dish to wash at the end of it all.

Staub is a premium line of French-made cast iron and ceramic cookware including skillets, pans, teapots, dishes and much more. For slow cooking, I recommend any one of Staub’s round or oval-shaped cast iron roasting dishes or cocottes – also known as ‘french ovens’. Cast iron is celebrated for its durability, even heating and ability to retain moisture during roasting. Have you ever picked one up? There’s no way steam is going to sneak its way under one of those mammoth lids.

Yesterday I made slow-cooked baked beans with molasses, bacon and apple sausage in a Staub cocotte. Actually, that’s not 100% true. I meant to do it all on my own, but I suddenly felt intimidated by the bean part. I’ve never prepared dry beans before, so I coaxed my chef husband into ‘helping’ me. When “we” (he) took the dish out of the oven several hours later and lifted the lid, the scent was heavenly. Once the food of wandering hobos and pitied bachelors, baked beans finally found sophistication in my little urban kitchen.

Like anything that’s wonderful and well-made, Staub’s cast iron pieces don’t come cheap. But you can be sure that your investment will give you at least a lifetime of use (who hasn’t inherited cast iron from their grandparents?). Add a cocotte to your collection this winter season, or spoil a domestically-inclined loved one. – Dee

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