Unattended Dutch Oven Cooking?
I reallllly don't want to go out and buy a slow cooker, and I just got an awesome Staub Cocotte.
I really want to be able to set it up to cook all day so a delicious stew is ready when I get home from work. I've been scouring the internet for advice on leaving the oven on all day, and have also considered getting a single induction plate for it.
Since you all are the amateur experts and expert amateurs, what's your opinion of how best to do this? Should I just break down and get yet another kitchen appliance? (my kitchen is small and already filled with too many kitchen aid attachments).
It depends on how cautious you are. I've asked fire fighters who all immediately say not to do it. I have a friend whose oven has caught on fire. But, they have made ovens that will keep food cold and then turn on at a designated time and cook your dinner. I heard they didn't sell well so they might have discontinued them. I use a crockpot but there are people who are cautious about that, too.
I'd try it once at the temperature at amount of food you plan to do when you are at home, to make sure all your water doesn't evaporate or that your oven runs much hotter.
Is your oven's temperature control reliable, and can it hold temperatures of 225º or less? If you've browned your ingredients and brought your stew to a simmer, an oven setting between 200º and 225º for 8-10 hours should yield a fine dish. My best-ever cassoulet was made with soaked beans, onion, tomatoes and lamb neck put into the oven at bedtime and taken out the next morning. The only hard part was picking the bones out!
Granted, this is not as economical of energy as a crockpot, which you might think about getting. A really good one, say a Westinghouse with a carrying cozy and fancy controls, will cost you a fraction of what your Staub pot did*. The pot-in-the-oven thing, though, does I believe produce superior results, though I've not tested this by any proper scientific means. Maybe I need to make two batches of cassoulet? H'm, I think I could get into that …
*And you can keep it under your bed, in the bathtub, hall closet …
Kinda long, but then cassoulet is!
This is timed for cooking from late afternoon into late evening - I started before supper and took my own sweet time, putting the pot into the oven at around 11.
2 lbs dried beans
1 red onion and 3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
handful of diced bacon
black pepper, dried thyme to taste
salt - add later (Note: Harold McGee says salting beginning with the soaking actually works better, and that it's a myth that this toughens the beans)
Soak the beans or not, according to your personal feelings on the subject. If you do, drain them before proceeding. Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot, then add the vegetables, bacon and seasonings. Stir and cook over high heat for a minute or so, then reduce the heat and cover the pot for about ten minutes, or until the bacon and onion are both transparent. Then raise the heat back to high, put in the beans, stir well to mix and pour in enough water to cover by 2" if beans were soaked, 4" if cooking from dry. Bring to boil, cover pot and adjust heat to induce a simmer.
Cook until beans are just tender and add salt to taste. Continue cooking until they're tender clear through but not mushy, adding boiling water if necessary to keep the top layer covered.
olive oil or duck fat
salt and pepper
3 lbs lamb, neck slices or shanks (neck was used here, and is strongly recommended)
2-3 slices smoked pork shank
large can Italian tomatoes in juice - break up and discard seeds and hard cores
Oven at 200º
Place your braising pot over high heat and put in about 1/4 cup of fat or oil. When the fat is hot, brown the lamb, salting and peppering as you go, and then do the same with the pork shank. Set the meat aside and pour off the excess fat. Now cover the bottom of the pot with a layer of beans, and cover this with as much lamb and pork as will fit in a single layer. Strew some of the tomatoes over that, then more beans, more meat and so on. Finish with a layer of beans. Pour the tomato juice over all, then pour in enough bean broth just to cover the top. Put the lid on the pot, and place in the center of the oven (with a small cookie sheet under it if your pot is really full), and then go to bed. Set your alarm for 7 to 8 hours...
cooked or uncooked pork sausages (brown well if uncooked)
duck confit, optional
panko crumbs or breadcrumbs
Oven at 350º
The house will smell very good when you wake up. When you're good and ready, take the casserole out and check out the contents. With a wide slotted spoon, carefully scoop everything out of the pot, down to the bottom bean layer. Check to make sure there are no little bones left behind. Remove all the meat from all the bones. Now rebuild your layers, this time including some sausages (if you're using precooked, you may want to put them on top towards the end, pushing them down amongst the beans). In the top layer include only the confit, if you're using it, and sausages, all pushed down into the beans and barely showing. Adjust the amount of liquid so it comes up to just below the top layer and then spread on a good layer of crumbs. Set back into the oven uncovered, and cook until bubbly and beginning to brown on top, an hour or so. For best effect, cover this and let it sit all day in a cool but not cold spot, then return to the oven and reheat for dinner.
Pot in the oven is the way to go. You can brown everything in the pot. Deglaze it and let it cook for 6-10 hours at 225. The low temp will not evaporate as much liquid as you think. I would do it a few times when you are home to observe and adjust. I promise the flavor will kick the haggis out of any slow cooker meal.
Once I learned to use a crock pot correctly (ie not throw everything in and let it cook), it worked great for braises because I have free time mid-day but get home late and too tired too cook at 7 or 8 pm. But, because liquids don't evaporate as much as they do in a dutch oven, I still prefer that, if I cab. So, doing it overnight in a dutch oven and then keeping it warm in the crock pot might be the best of both worlds. I can just imagine the smells at night, though. Might be good enough to keep me up.
What temperature do you use, for all night? I don't want to overcook it either. Would 225-250 work?