I made a wonderful purchase off ebay last year of a vintage Le Creuset Doufeu. It has now become a workhorse in my kitchen, and is one of my favourite pieces.
The doufeu is a dutch oven with the unique feature of a concave lid for holding ice cubes. The term comes from the french words for gentle (doux) and fire (feu) and the principle of this pot is that it allows for slow cooking without letting the flavours escape.
As you can see from the detail, the handles are ears along the side of the pot, and there is a depression on the lid that allows you to hold ice cubes. The underside of the lid is is dotted to allow for gentle braising of meats. The difference in temperature between the top of the lid and bottom of the lid encourages condensation - similar to an ice cold glass of water getting foggy and wet. The droplets collect at the dots, and drip down on the meat, keeping it moist and not requiring you to open the lid and stir or add dilute liquids.
My favourite dish to cook in the doufeu is braised beef brisket. I start by browning the seasoned meat in some olive oil. Then I remove the meat from the pot, and sautee some vegetables with the seasoned bits in the pot.
What I love about this dish is that I can throw in veggies from the fridge in a somewhat carefree manner. If I have green onions, I'll throw them in. If not, I skip it and add some garlic instead. I try to base the veggie combo on the wonderful trifecta of onions, celery, and carrots, also known by the french as the mirepoix.
Soon I am able to place the meat back on the bed of sauteed vegetables. I add my braising liquid (I usually use a combination of dark soy sauce, some vinegar, ketchup, and/or any stock I have on hand), set it to low heat, and cook for 4-6 hours. Once I put the lid on, all I need to do is flip the meat at the halfway point. Otherwise, it takes care of itself and produces a beautiful succulent piece of meat!
I love all my Le Creuset items, but the intruiging science behind this pot makes it my favourite piece of all! It also never fails to deliver a flavourful braised beef brisket with minimal effort or risk of drying out.
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4 weeks ago