A cook, his cocotte, and three luscious recipes.
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We had an inkling that, when we asked Chef Gwenael Goulet to reveal his favorite kitchen tool, he wasn’t going to show up with a hi-tech immersion circulator. In fact, this Gallic traditionalist—the soul behind Hastings-on-Hudson’s reinvigorated Buffet de la Gare—went about as low-tech as you can. Goulet chose his Staub cocotte: essentially, an enameled cast-iron pot so homey it’s practically primitive.
Yet, as every chef knows, simplicity has its beauty. Unlike the single-function cookware cluttering today’s houseware aisles, an enameled, cast-iron pot can do anything--from deep frying to baking, from boiling to braising. To showcase his cocotte’s flexibility, Chef Goulet gives us tres-French coq au vin and cassoulet, but he also whips up miniature clafoutis, sweet cherry desserts whose tender, golden crumb showcases the cocotte’s breadth. (And FYI, "cocotte" is a double entendre: the word is also affectionate slang for prostitute.)
Although rainbow-colored Le Creuset is easier to find, Staub is the cult cocotte of chefs like Paul Bocuse and Dan Barber, who revere this Alsatian cookware for its constant thermal release and virtually indestructible enamel coating. Though both Le Creuset and Staub cookware are enameled cast iron, the undersides of the Staub lids sport stalactite-like “self-basting spikes,” which trap released vapor and rain it evenly back onto the food. This handy design feature helps prevent scorching in long, blindly braised dishes.
Staub cookware is available at Chef Central (45 S Central Ave, Hartsdale 914-328-1376), Bloomingdale’s (175 Bloomingdale Rd, White Plains 914-684-6300), Amazon.com, and—if you’re patient—the frequent Zwilling J.A. Henckels factory warehouse sales (171 Saw Mill River Rd, Hawthorne 800-777-4308). For inquiries about sale dates, email email@example.com.
CASSOULET 10 servings
Cassoulet is one of Buffet de la Gare's signature dishes.
◆ 2 lb dried beans (lingots, cannelli beans, navy)
◆ 3 onions, peeled
◆ 2 celery stalks
◆ 2 carrots, peeled
◆ 1 bouquet garni (10 sprigs parsley, 3 bay leaves, 6 sprigs thyme, 25 black peppercorns)
◆ 6-8 cloves
◆ 15 garlic cloves
◆ Salt, pepper
◆ ½ cup duck fat (preferably from confit)
◆ 3-4 lb cubed lamb (shanks, shoulder)
◆ 6 tomatoes, peeled and seeded
◆ 2 Tbsp tomato paste
◆ 1½ lb garlic sausage (kielbasa)
◆ 1½ lb smoked pork loin
◆ 1½ lb fresh bacon
◆ 6 confited duck legs
◆ 2 quarts stock (duck, chicken, or veal)
Soak the beans overnight. Next day, drain. In a large pot, place beans, bacon, celery, carrots, 2 onions pierced with cloves, 8 cloves of garlic, and half of the bouquet garni. Just cover ingredients with water and add a little salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 40-45 minutes until beans are almost cooked. Drain the beans. Discard the bouquet garni and vegetables. Keep the bacon on the side.
In a large sauté pan, heat half of the duck fat (4-5 Tbsp), add the lamb cubes, and sauté meat until it is browned. In a large, heavy pot, place the remaining chopped onions, crushed garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, remaining bouquet garni, and 1½ quarts of the stock. Add seasoning and simmer for 1¼ to 1½ hours, or until meat is very tender.
Preheat oven at 325°F. Add to the meat the beans, bacon, garlic sausage, and confit, and simmer for a half-hour. The cassoulet should be soupy; if not, add more stock and correct seasoning. Cut the bacon and sausage in slices; cut the duck legs in half.
To a large Staub cocotte, add half the beans and lamb in the bottom, layer bacon, pork loin slices, sausage, remaining beans, and duck confit on the top. If dry, add more stock. Sprinkle breadcrumbs all over the cassoulet, then pour remaining melted duck fat on top.
Bake for 1-1½ hours until top crust is lightly browned. Serve hot.