The last few months I have really begun embracing the art of cooking. I have to confess, I never really thought I had any talent for it and had chalked it up to some things you're good at, some things you just aren't. So, I have been reading cookbooks and food magazines, watching the Food Network and checking out websites all about cooking hoping to learn a thing or two and get that much closer to attempting some challenging recipes. I have to say that getting my feet wet in the kitchen and venturing out into the culinary world of Julia, Ina and Giada has been quite an inspiring, fun and educational experience. The one thing that seems a common thread with all good cooks is high quality cookware. With this is mind, I thought it was time to evaluate my own - or more accurately, my lack thereof.
One of the things I love about the whole Julia Child/French Cooking is the gorgeous Le Creuset® cookware that she helped make famous. From watching the cooking shows, I noticed that everyone has at least a few pieces. I also observed that the food looks fabulous in Le Creuset®, even if the dish itself might seem iffy. I set out on a quest to price out and purchase this lovely French, cast iron cookware and see if I could add a few pieces to my very minimal collection (I lost custody of the pots and pans in the divorce). Of course Williams Sonoma has a wonderful collection. They have all colors, shapes and sizes, for cooking, baking and serving. Sur La Table also carries a variety of Le Creuset® and even has the original Oval Flame Doufeu - which is the equivalent of a slow cooker - in the signature red/orange hue that these French pots are well-known for. I also found that my local outlet mall had in fact a Le Creuset® outlet with prices that even these stores with their best sales, could not beat. Now I had to decide what to purchase.
Many of the recipes I have been mustering the nerve to attempt require braising or roasting which I have found out is perfectly accomplished in a dutch oven. And of course, Julia's infamous pot-au-feu and boeuf bourguignon are both dutch oven dishes. It follows then that my first Le Creuset® purchase was the 5.5 quart, round dutch oven in flame. I can't wait to try the Autumn stew that my sister just sent me the recipe for. My next thought was a grill pan. Now, I already have a very nice 12" round grill pan perfect for steaks. The problem is how cumbersome it can be on the burner. I have an electric (rolling of the eyes) cook top that I absolutely hate, but hey, the house is a rental. I really wanted a grill pan that would fit better on the burner and would still cook the food evenly. Voila square grill pan with panini press. Not only is it the perfect fit for my cook top, but the press allows for nice grill marks on both sides without turning. I have visions of this amazing Swordfish with citrus pesto that I watched Giada grilling in her pan the other day. Yum. The next suggestion from the saleslady was a saute pan. I decided to go ahead and get the 10" skillet - perfect for searing and a must for Ina's Scallops Provencal.
Now I have the beginnings of the my own perfect set Le Creuset®. I have even made a few masterpieces of my own - savory bourbon salmon, scrumptious shrimp scampi and to-die-for bolognese sauce for pasta. It's amazing - as if the mere fact that you are cooking with these marvelous, colorful, cast iron pots and pans makes your dish a sure fire culinary masterpiece. Taste buds beware - I seem to have found the joie de cuisine!
photo courtesy of Le Creuset®