Pros: Typical Le Creuset durability and usefulness
Cons: Pricey, heavy
I am in the very happy position of having just about everything I want. Well, Id love to be able to resolve the Mideast crisis, and ensure plenty to eat for everyone on earth, but in terms of things we can buy for one another, I have just about everything I want or need. So when Penguinman started asking me in November what I wanted for Christmas, I was lost for an answer. I have all the Stuff Ive ever wanted. (Well, there are a few odds and ends Id like, like some major travel and an Austin-Healy 3000MK and a Bose sound system throughout the house, but Im talking about the regular, normal things that people give each other.)
After failing to elicit a reply from me for six weeks, Penguinman very dramatically slapped his forehead one evening at dinner and exclaimed that hed come up with something he thought Id really like. And on Christmas morning, with his daughters and new son-in-law gathered with us around the fire, I opened five successively smaller boxes to find an absolutely fabulous tanzanite ring. Crafty fellow - Ive been talking about a tanzanite ring for years, but was quite happy to hold it as my unattainable fantasy and never expected to actually own one. And there it was, on my finger, a gorgeous deep purply-blue stone set in tiny diamonds on a white gold band. Incredible.
So no sooner was Christmas over when the sequence began again for my January 27th birthday: What do you want for your birthday?
Well, in the process of getting the paperwork for the ring, Id seen yet another fabulous ring, a sapphire. Ive never been very interested in sapphires, but this one is a doozy and ever since he awakened my latent lust for gemstones with the tanzanite, Ive been drooling over this one. So of course, I had to tell him - he asked, didnt he? - and casually mentioned that it was going on sale on Feb. 1, 40% + 10%, bringing the price down to a mere... well, a mere bagatelle. Hed smile enigmatically and ask me what I really wanted. And Id give my standard answer - nothing, really. Maybe a nice dinner out, but my wants and needs were well supplied. Just as they had been at Christmas...
Came my birthday and we went out the night before to one of my favorite restaurants and splurged on a wonderful dinner. And on January 27th, we met for lunch in Pasadena Old Town and I received my gift: a Le Creuset Round Doufeu 5-qt. braising pot.
A Doufeu, from the French doux for gentle or sweet, and feu for fire.
This is a round Dutch-oven-like pot, with a capacity of five quarts.
Its suitable for stove-top and oven cooking, but not for microwave.
Like most Le Creuset cooking pots, its made of heavy cast iron with a smooth enamel coating inside and out. The cast iron ensures even heat transfer and smooth, even heating, and the coating makes the pot non-stick.
It has integrated handles on each side.
The matching lid has a deeply recessed center and two integrated handles, just like the pot itself. The underside of the lid, instead of being smooth, is covered with little bumples.
A little history: Dutch ovens were originally designed to be placed directly on the heat source, usually burning wood or embers, with more embers heaped on top, so the food was surrounded by heat. Thats why they are traditionally made of cast iron, which is impervious to direct heat. However, the greater heat would cause evaporation, so the food would require more liquid to cook without scorching. The Le Creuset 5-qt. Round Doufeu is designed with a recessed lid so you can pile ice into it. That means that you can use minimal liquid in the pot and gentle heat. The moisture rising in the pot meets the cooler lid and condenses, falling back into the pot as a fine mist, via the bumples. So you can cook with less liquid because theres no loss by evaporation, your food remains moist, nutrients are not lost, and the flavors intensify. Pretty ingenious, eh?
Of course, the ice will melt before long, but the resulting water will still remain cooler than the contents of the pot, so the condensation still happens. And when it evaporates in a hot oven, you replace it with some warm water.
You can also use it as a standard Dutch oven, without the ice.
Because the enamel coating can chip or scratch more easily than uncoated surfaces can, be sure to use wooden or plastic/nylon implements.
Its a lovely shade of Le Creuset red, a familiar color to fans of this cookware, that fades from a deep red at the bottom to a lighter red at the rim.
The pot is available in several sizes, including 5-quart and 6?-quart, and two colors, red and blue. I got the smaller size, in red.
(A note to frustrated readers: The Le Creuset website, www.lecreuset.com, is one of the most poorly designed Ive ever encountered. Not only does it not show a lot of their products, but theres also no Search function. So forget it and go to one of my favorite toy stores, www.surlatable.com, for a nice picture of this pot.)
The pot shouldnt be placed on a high flame or into a very hot oven; its best to raise the heat gently and gradually to medium, and then reduce it.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT
Like all Le Creuset cast iron products, the Le Creuset 5-qt. Round Doufeu is virtually indestructible. These products are made to last generations; I know people who are cooking with their grandmothers Le Creusets and they are still going strong.
The combination of heavy cast iron and smooth enamel coating means that you get the best of both worlds: even heating, no contact with the iron itself, and a non-stick surface.
Because the cast iron retains and spreads heat so evenly, you dont need high heat; in fact, the people at Le Creuset recommend that you cook on low heat whenever possible. So your kitchen doesnt get as hot and you arent using as much gas or electricity.
Cast iron retains heat for a long time, so your food wont get cold before the end of the meal.
As is to be expected with the non-stick coating, clean-up is a snap. I wait for the pot to cool off a bit and then fill it with water and a dribble of dish soap. A few minutes later I can practically wipe out the inside. I never have to use more effort than my plastic scrubbie provides and it looks like new. (I just got this yesterday - how do I know? Because, dear reader, Ive owned other Le Creuset cookware and am very familiar with - and thankful for - its ease of clean-up.) And while you can put it in the dishwasher, I wouldnt recommend doing so; itll fill the entire bottom rack, and you can wash it just as fast and easily by hand.
I love being able to cook with just a small amount of water. I have other minimal-liquid cooking pots and really enjoy the intensity of flavor and retained nutrients that I get with them.
Its very attractive. Le Creuset cooking equipment is beautifully designed, and if youve read any of my other kitchen equipment reviews, you know that means functional and attractive, and that good design is very important to me. The Le Creuset 5-qt. Round Doufeu can go from oven or stove-top directly to the table; just make sure you put a sturdy trivet or tile under it, because the cast-iron will retain cooking heat for quite a while.
WHAT IM NOT CRAZY ABOUT
Like all cast iron cooking equipment, the Le Creuset 5-qt. Round Doufeu is pretty heavy; it takes two hands to lift it, even empty. Nothing different about this product, since all cast iron is heavy, but this stuff isnt for 97-pound weaklings. Youll probably not want to store it on a high shelf.
The integrated handles get as hot as the pot itself, so you always have to use a potholder or oven mitt when handling them.
The enamel coating is attractive and durable under normal usage conditions, but more susceptible to chips than an uncoated pot would be. So you need to be sure you dont bang it on a hard surface or with a metal implement.
The cost. Like all Le Creuset products, it aint cheap. I believe Penguinman paid about $160 for it at Sur la Table. You might be able to find it more cheaply, but Le Creuset products are usually pretty stable in price, regardless of where you buy them. And if you amortize the cost over the number of years youll have it and the usage youll get from it, it probably works out to about a penny per use. Not bad, and still cheaper than sapphires.
This is a well-designed, useful, attractive, and innovative cooking pot. Treated with reasonable care, it will provide decades of service, producing moist, juicy, nutrient-filled goods and delicious sauces, starting with little or no added liquid. A definite five stars.
OK, so its not a sapphire ring, but it will last me just as long and be a heckuva lot more useful. And now that Ive got this Le Creuset 5-qt. Round Doufeu, I really, REALLY dont know what to ask for next Christmas. And the rings always go on sale about then...
Ive never been a big fan of ribs; they seem to require a lot of effort to wrest very little meat from the bones, and I always feel as though I need a shower after Ive eaten them. But this recipe is different; its very simple, produces masses of succulent meat, and can be eaten with a knife and fork. (I know that last one is a virtue only to weird people like me, but I appreciate it!)
As usual, I cant really give you precise quantities, but you can eyeball it and figure it out.
about 4 lbs Farmer-style pork ribs, the ones with LOTS of meat on the bone
2 large onions, sliced thin
1 bottle good quality BBQ sauce
egg noodles, cooked and drained
Brown the ribs in a skillet with a little fat or vegetable oil.
Place them in a Le Creuset 5-qt. Round Doufeu or other casserole/Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid.
Top with the onions.
Pour the BBQ sauce over the top, being careful to cover everything.
Put the top on the pot and bake for 2 hours at 400?.
(If using the Le Creuset 5-qt. Round Doufeu, fill the lid with ice and replenish the water after an hour.)
Serve with egg noodles.