Friday, September 4, 2015

My New Pan

by Sheila Connolly

Once upon a time, in a universe far far away… Oops, wrong story. When I got married in 1976 (I was a babe in arms, of course), a friend of mine gave me a Le Creuset enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. It became my go-to pan for everything (of course, at the time I didn’t have a lot of cookware). It was the perfect size for four servings. It distributed the heat beautifully. I loved that thing.

Over the years, it started getting a bit grungy. Those of you who follow us at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen may have noticed that red pot whose white interior wasn’t exactly white any more. And there were a few chips around the edges. It was tired, even though I’d babied it for decades. But it still worked.

Then a friend told me something wonderful: Le Creuset has a life-time guarantee for its products. Lifetime. No questions asked (unless you drop it from a fifth-story window, maybe). No proof of purchase required. Send the old one to the factory, and they will send you a brand new one. I did.

It arrived on Monday. It is shiny and new. It is beautiful.

So I had to christen it. My first thought was to pull out the old faithful cookbook, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. My copy is one I bought for myself when I graduated from college and moved to my first apartment, so it was even older than the old pot. It still gets a lot of use.

I started leafing through the chicken section. I’d already shared my version of Julia’s Tarragon Chicken here, so that was out. Looking at the recipes was kind of a time-travel trip: there was a lot of butter and cream and wine involved, although at least Julia called for fresh herbs and shallots. But it’s still summer-ish here, so I wanted something not too heavy to inaugurate my lovely red pot. Here’s what I came up with (with honors to Julia Child but updated):

Poulet Sauté (okay, Sauteed Chicken)

I’ll give you the recipe for four, but since there are only myself and my husband (and a cat who likes chicken) at home, I’ll cook only for two.

3 pounds frying chicken, cut into pieces
Salt and pepper
2 Tblsp butter plus 1 Tblsp cooking oil

Place the casserole over medium high heat and melt the butter with the oil. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. When the foam from the butter is all but gone, add the chicken pieces, skin side down, in one layer (do not overcrowd!). When the first side has turned a nice golden color (in 2-3 minutes), turn the pieces over to brown the other side. Do not let the fat overheat.

Fresh herbs (note: Julia was very conservative with the amount of herbs she suggested—I was much more liberal, especially since they came from my own pot of herbs)

2-3 Tblsp butter

If the fat in the pan is too dark, pour it out and add the fresh butter. Mix in the herbs, then place the chicken in the pan and baste it with the herbed butter. Cover the pan and lower the heat to medium. Baste and turn the chicken a few times, until it is done (10-15 min for white meat). Remove to a heated platter and cover while you finish the sauce.

1 Tblsp minced shallot or green onion
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth (Julia said canned; I use what comes in a box these days, which is available in a low-sodium form)
1-2 Tblsp softened butter
Minced herbs if you want

Remove all but 2-3 Tblsp of the fat from the casserole. Add the shallots or onions and cook slowly for a minute. Pour in the wine and allow the alcohol in it to boil off. Add the chicken stock. Raise the heat and boil, scraping up any juices and scraps in the pan—you should have about 1/3 cup when you’re done. Taste for seasoning. 

When you’re ready to serve, swirl in the last of butter and more fresh herbs. Arrange the chicken on a platter or individual plates and pour the sauce over the pieces. 

Julia suggested serving this with some form of potatoes, but I usually serve chicken with rice, which is simpler to cook. Add something green (a summer salad, for instance) and voila! Le dîner est servi!
Thank you, Le Creuset! 

Only one more month to wait!

Wedding bells are ringing for Meg and Seth in the latest Orchard Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Picked to Die…

The fall harvest may be just about over, but orchard owner Meg Corey is busier than ever planning her wedding to Seth Chapin. Who knew picking apples would be less work than picking out rings and a dress? And even though the happy couple has invited most of Granford, Massachusetts, to the ceremony, they might have to make room for one more guest…

Ex-con Aaron Eastman has unexpectedly reappeared in his hometown, searching for answers to the tragic fire in his family’s past that put him behind bars twenty-five years ago. Moved by his sincerity, Meg vows to do everything she can to help him solve the cold case. As she cobbles together the clues, it becomes increasingly clear that Aaron may have been considered the bad seed of the family, but someone else was one bad apple…

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  1. Cool about the new pan! I have one that never seemed to cook right, maybe I should try sending it back?

    1. I can't imagine what the problem might be.
      You probably should send it back to them.

    2. It's worth a try. You have to call the US site, which I think is in Connecticut, to get a case number before yo send it. But they were not at all judgmental! I love the way they stand behind their products, decades later.

  2. I should add that this is the most basic recipe--you can feel free to dress it up with mushrooms or cream or whatever you like.

    Yes, those chicken pieces look big. I swear that when I first started cooking in the old pot, I could fit the cut-up pieces of a whole chicken. Now I can't find any chicken parts that small in my market. I'm tempted to raise my own, but that might get messy.

    And the friend who deserves my undying gratitude for alerting me to the Le Creuset promise is Sisters-in-Crime sister Tiger Wiseman. I think I owe her a meal made in the pot.

  3. Now that is customer service! Kudos to the company for standing by their product.

    I think you should definitely cook a meal in the pot for your wise friend. And this would be a winner for that party.

  4. I had no idea Le Creuset did that. I have their oval pan in blue. No chips yet but a little less than white on the inside. I also have that same pepper mill. Both the pot and the pepper mill (and my copy of Julia Child) are also circa the 1970s.

  5. Happy to share that little known fact (now that I've tested it). The peppermill was my mother's--I have no idea how old it is, but it works just fine. They built things to last back then!

  6. Plus both pot and finished dish are pretty -- always a bonus!

  7. That's a lovely pot! The meal looks delicious, too.

  8. Great story and I love Le Creuset, which I have found in discontinued colors at great prices in T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. I missed the link to the chicken tarragon recipe, Sheila and would love it it if you would repost. I've got a pot full of tarragon begging to be cooked!

    1. (I hope--it was February 17th, 2012).

      My tarragon didn't exactly thrive this year, but I could have watered it a bit more often. My chives, however, are quite happy.

  9. Well, now I'm kicking myself because I threw out a Le Creuset kettle that was disintegrating. Sigh. Your new pot is beautiful! And the recipe is a keeper, for sure!

  10. Great story and terrific recipe, Sheila! That's good to know about Le Creuset. And lucky you to have one all through your marriage. We got our first (and only) for our 45th anniversary.

    I'll be making this chicken in it.



  11. Sheila, I'm not sure if you'll see this post since your blog was yesterday...but I have a set of Le Creuset as well (my mom gave me hers, and I've added a couple more pieces on my own) and I, too, exchanged my Dutch oven last month! This is a wonderful benefit of the cookware, I use mine almost every day and just love it. I think that even if they don't replace it at no cost, they'll only charge a maximum of 75% off of the retail price. Thanks for sharing the recipe, I'm looking forward to making it! :-)

    1. I love the Le Creuset products, and now I'm impressed by how the company stands behind them.

      A lot of older cookware was made to last--I still have Revereware pans that my mother used when she was first married, and oddly enough, the designs really haven't changed--why mess with what works? On the phone with Le Creuset, I joked with the service person that my back-up Dutch oven (Magnalite aluminum) was older than the Le Creuset piece, and it's still working just fine--it was also my mother's.