One pot to rule them all

There comes a time in a woman's life when she realises she just doesn't need all that many things.

Okay, maybe I'm just speaking for myself - the handbag roster is down to 4 stalwarts, and the shoe rotation (during the work week) goes black, beige, snakeskin, leopard and more leopard - and while it sounds terribly unexciting, I suppose the classics really do work for me.

As it turns out, the same scenario's played out in the kitchen. I've abandoned all my beautiful new pots in favour of a single trusty, dependable and very hard-working Le Creuset oval french oven - a more practical shape as compared to the round french oven as oval ovens accommodate longer cuts of meat - I even got it in Le Creuset's classic orange! It's a multi-purpose wonder as it goes from stove-top to oven to table, without breaks in between, and without plating or additional serving dishes. This has the added benefit of making clean up a breeze, much to my husband's delight.

You've never known how easy it can be to make absolutely delicious meat dishes with so very little energy. To anyone with a fear of drying out a pork loin, or overdoing a cut of beef, or making stringy chicken - this is the answer to your prayers. These hearty dishes served up in classic cast iron pots even manage to look impressive, in spite of the cook's lack luster effort in the area of presentation.

So in the spirit of sharing is caring, two recipes that I guarantee will make your better half think you're god's gift to mankind. 

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs
(recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit)

Click here for the ingredients list then follow these directions. You can follow them loosely as I did or to a T. It will turn out brilliantly either way, just keep the temperature low and consistent, and the beef in there for as long as possible:

Preheat oven to 350°F (approx 180°C). Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 Tbsp. drippings from pot.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.

Cook until short ribs are tender, 2–2 1/2 hours. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls over mashed potatoes with sauce spooned over.

Coq Au Vin (with a wee bit of a twist)

For the most part, I followed Bon Appetit's recipe for this tasty chicken dish, and I'm certain the original recipe would have been just as good, if not better, but I was very low on a good quality dry red wine (like Burgundy), had way too much beer leftover in the fridge from the last time my brother came over, and had a quarter box of grapes left. So all those things went in, in addition to what was stipulated in Bon Appetit's recipe. These one pot recipes seem like a good way to get rid of things that have been sitting around too long in the fridge. 

Also, while it might seem like a lot of steps, it really isn't! Once it's in the oven you can basically kick back and relax till it's done. 

Preheat oven to 350° (approx 180°C). Heat 1 tablespoon oil in an ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook chicken in batches until browned, 5-6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add bacon to pot; cook until rendered. Add carrots, celery, and onion; cook until onion is translucent, 7-8 minutes. Stir in 1 cup wine and tomato paste; simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add remaining 3 cups wine. Boil until wine is reduced by half, 15-20 minutes. Return chicken to pot.

Add broth. Tie thyme and rosemary sprigs together; add to pot. Bring to a boil and cover pot. Transfer pot to oven and braise until chicken is tender, about 1 1/4 hours.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until browned, about 5 minutes.

Transfer chicken from sauce to pot with mushrooms; keep warm. Simmer sauce over medium heat until reduced by 1/3, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms and chicken to sauce.

My favourite part about this dish is that you can actually make it up to 3 days in advance of when you plan to serve it and it doesn't dry out. It's a pretty good dish to serve if you're planning to have guests over for a mid-week meal as you can make it late on Sunday and it will still be delicious on Wednesday!

Other recipes I'm mad excited to try from Bon Appetit's 21 Recipes for Dutch Ovens series include: 

1. Chile braised short rib; 2. One pot clam bake; 3. Pork loin braised in milk; 4.Beer braised carnitas

If only there were more weekends in the week to make all the food I want to eat!