Thursday, February 02, 2006

Test drive

My favourite pressie from Xmas was a new and very large Le Crueset cast iron pot. It has many good uses, not the least of which is developing serious upper body strength and eradicating bingo wings. Try lifting one of these babies in and out of an oven a few times and you can forget all those gadgets at the gym.

Cast iron speaks to me of slow cooked unctuous things, but it’s February and 35C with 85% humidity which does not really motivate the casserole cook. So after looking at the latest pictures from my buddy in Montreal, Canada, where everything is covered with a couple of metres of snow, I cranked up the air con and got serious about test driving my new toy. I mean I couldn’t let it sit on the bench unused until winter, could I? I reckon if they started selling Easter eggs at Coles on December 29th I can jump the gun with slow cooking for the colder months.

Of course the first thing that leapt to mind was Boeuf à la Bourguignonne. I don’t need to tell you the recipe – I use a combo of Elizabeth David (French Provincial Cooking) and Larousse – and use a whole piece of kassler rather than sliced bacon. I’ve found it hard to get a decent piece of bacon even at specialist suppliers, and in my opinion commercial bacon frizzles up to nothing because of the high water content and so intensifies the saltiness of the dish too much. Kassler keeps the shape of the lardons more uniform through cooking adding smokiness without too much salt. I also make sure I flambé the meat cubes with a decent slug of brandy or cognac prior to adding the wine. The rest you know or can look up.

Two hours later a meltingly tender, rich delight emerges from my oven – I’m sure well and truly enhanced by the cast iron doing the job it was invented for. Vive la France!

My next favourite Xmas pressie will be my copy of the The Silver Spoon when it arrives at Borders. They sold out before Xmas (what bad planning!) so I’m looking forward to some more slow cooked yummy stuff when I can pour over its pages.


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