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Carrie's Kitchen: A tasty trio of recipes that utilize the Dutch oven

Carrie's Kitchen: A tasty trio of recipes that utilize the Dutch oven
Dutch ovens are kitchen workhorses, ideal for everything from stews to pot roasts. (James Ransom/Staub)

I had been writing about slow cookers for a couple of weeks, but the truth is that in my kitchen, I use my Dutch oven way more than I use my slow cooker. So when I was at the library and I found a copy of America’s Test Kitchen’s “Cook it in Your Dutch Oven,” I got pretty excited.

The cookbook has 150 recipes, divided into one-pot dinners, soups, stews and chilis, roasts and braises, frying, simple sides, breads and desserts. And there is so much to learn from it.

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First off, did you know that you could caramelize onions in your oven? I didn’t! I’m glad I read the intro to the ultimate French onion soup recipe, because I already had a recipe I like for French onion soup, but that’s how I learned that, yes, you really can caramelize onions in the oven in your Dutch oven. It takes about 2½ hours in the oven, which is about three times as long as on the stove, but there’s very little stirring required in the oven method, and much less watching and being tempted to stir them. I tried it out because I needed caramelized onions for a steak appetizer I was making, so I haven’t tried the rest of the soup recipe out, but the first step blew my mind so I wanted to include it here.

The second recipe that I wanted to share (read: type up so that I can save it) is for this roasted pork loin with barley, butternut squash and Swiss chard. I’ve recently discovered that my kids really like pork loin, and I love barley, butternut squash and Swiss chard, and those flavors are all going to complement each other so well, and with this recipe you cook it all in the same pot, though staged at different intervals. I can’t wait to use this one.

And finally, a side dish easy enough for a weeknight (if you have 45 minutes available to cook on a weeknight), of carrots and parsnips braised in chicken broth and apple cider, dressed up with dried cranberries, thyme, and a finish of Dijon mustard to hold the sauce together. I’m always happy to find a new way to try parsnips.

Enjoy!

Ultimate French onion soup

4 pounds onions, halved and sliced through root end into ¼-inch-thick slices

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces

Salt and pepper

2¾ to 3 cups water

½ cup dry sherry

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups beef broth

6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine

1 bay leaf

1 (12-inch) baguette, cut into ½-inch slices

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8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (2 cups)

Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat inside of Dutch oven with vegetable oil spray. Add onions, butter and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover, transfer pot to oven, and cook until onions wilt slightly, about one hour.

Stir onions thoroughly, scraping bottom and sides of pot. Partially cover pot and continue to cook in oven until onions are very soft and golden brown, 1½ to 1¾ hours, stirring onions thoroughly after one hour. Do not turn off oven.

Remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Continue to cook ovens, stirring and scraping pot often, until liquid evaporates, onions brown, and bottom of pot is coated with dark crust, 20 to 25 minutes. (If onions begin to brown too quickly, reduce heat to medium.)

Stir in ¼ cup water, scraping up any browned bits, continue to cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat deglazing with ¼ cup water two or three more times, until onions are very dark brown.

Stir in sherry and cook until almost dry, about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, beef broth, 2 cups water, thyme bundle, bay leaf, and ½ teaspoon salt, scraping up any remaining browned bits, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Discard thyme bundle and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. (Soup can be refrigerated for up to three days; return to a simmer before proceeding.)

Lay baguette slices on rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry, crisp and lightly golden, about 10 minutes, flipping slices halfway through baking.

Position oven rack 8 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on separate rimmed baking sheet and fill each with about 1½ cups soup. Top each bowl with one or two baguette slices (do not overlap) and sprinkle evenly with Gruyere. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Roasted pork loin with barley, butternut squash and Swiss chard

Salt and pepper

1 (2½ to 3-pound) boneless pork loin roast, fat trimmed to ¼ inch

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

1 cup pearled barley, rinsed

3 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup dry white wine

4 cups chicken broth

½ small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½ inch pieces (2½ cups)

8 ounces Swiss chard, stems chopped, leaves cut into 1-inch pieces

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (½ cup)

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Dissolve ¼ cup salt in 2 quarts cold water in a large container. Submerge roast in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 1½ to 2 hours.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Remove roast from brine, pat dry with paper towels, and tie at 1-inch intervals with kitchen twine. Season roast with pepper and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon thyme. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown roast on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes; transfer to plate.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, onion, barley and ¼ teaspoon salt to fat left in pot. Cook over medium heat until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and remaining 1 tablespoon thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and bring to a simmer.

Return roast and any accumulated juices to pot, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook until pork registers 140 degrees, 30 to 50 minutes. Remove pot from oven. Transfer roast to carving board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest while barley and vegetables finish cooking.

Bring barley to simmer over medium-high heat and cook, covered, until barley is just cooked through but still somewhat firm in center, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in squash and chard stems and cook, covered, until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in chard leaves, decrease heat to medium, and cook, uncovered, until leaves are tender and mixture is thickened into risotto-like consistency, 2 to 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in Parmesan and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Discard twine and slice roast into ½-inch thick slices. Serve with barley and vegetables.

Weeknight carrots and parsnips with dried cranberries

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 shallot, minced

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1 cup chicken broth

1 cup apple cider

6 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper

1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced on bias ¼ inch thick

1 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced on bias ¼ inch thick

½ cup dried cranberries

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in broth, cider, thyme sprigs, bay leaves, 1½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in carrots and parsnips. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 10 to 14 minutes.

Off heat, discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves and stir in cranberries. Push vegetable mixture to sides of pot. Add mustard, parsley, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter to center and whisk into cooking liquid. Stir to coat vegetable mixture with sauce. Serve.

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