For years, I’ve been in love with my Le Creuset cookware. (I have two.) I use them to braise stews, meatballs, soups, ratatouillaise… :) But I’ve also often wondered how to deploy them in other ways. Lo and behold, I was delighted to discover Le French Oven by Hillary Davis, a new cookbook completely devoted to the cocotte (aka Dutch/French oven). (And, psssst — I’m giving away a copy! Find out more at the bottom of this post.)
Hillary is a food journalist, cooking instructor, mom to a Pomeranian pup named Fez, and the author of four books. In Le French Oven, she pens an ode to enamel-coated cast iron cookware, with recipes for all seasons, as well as tips for purchasing and maintaining. Today, Hillary shares her weeknight cooking secrets, and a recipe for one-pot pasta Niçoise…
On the importance of toast:
I always manage to have a really good sourdough or country bread around. So my favorite quick meal is to make a tartine (the French word for open-face sandwich). I look to see what’s in the fridge or pantry. If I have cold chicken leftovers, I’ll spread mayo on the bread, top with lettuce and tomato and thinly sliced chicken and more mayo, with a generous amount of coarsely ground black pepper. If I have great tomatoes, it will simply be a perfect summery tomato and mayo tartine with a grinding of sea salt.
On cooking fast meals:
I concentrate first on making what I call a flavor bomb. It usually starts with me opening a can of tuna and dumping it in the food processor. Then I might throw in 4 to 5 cloves of garlic, kosher salt, some Dijon mustard, half a bottle of capers, a can of anchovies. It all depends on what I have around, but the intent is to make a highly flavored paste.
On how to deploy the flavor bomb:
I toss it into spaghetti, slather it into an omelet, add olive oil and use it as a salad dressing or to make a chicken salad. I think flavor first, then create the meal from that.
On cooking in the French oven (and only the French oven):
In my newest cookbook, my recipe for Niçoise pasta uses a technique for cooking pasta in a French oven. First, you cook the pasta in wine and chicken stock rather than water to produce a much more flavorful pasta. Then, you make a flavor bomb from tuna, anchovies, hot pepper flakes, and garlic. Once the pasta is cooked, you mix it in just before serving.You can cook the pasta all at once in the French oven and carry it to the table to serve from. This is a true one-pot meal that is quick and delicious.
One-pot Niçoise Pasta / Pâtes à la Niçoise
Adapted from Le French Oven by Hillary Davis
*Note from Ann: In this clever recipe, everything cooks in the same pot — you don’t even need to drain the pasta. (Californians take note! This is good drought cooking :) Tuna and anchovies get blitzed in the food processor to create a rich and savory sauce. I was initially dubious about using so many strong flavors, but the white wine and lemon juice offset any fishiness. “Personalize this recipe by creating your own version of a flavor bomb, or by simply stirring in a jar of marinara sauce at the end,” says Hillary. “Quick and simple.” In the summer, she suggests making this recipe in the French oven, then chilling it in the pot and serving cold.
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 5-ounce cans tuna, drained
4-5 anchovy filets
5 large cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 pound uncooked fusilli, medium shells, or short rigatoni pasta (or any dried short pasta)
3 cups dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper
In a food processor, blend the tuna, anchovies, garlic, mustard, olive oil, and lemon zest. Hillary calls this paste a “flavor bomb.”
In the French oven, warm the remaining oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the pasta, wine, stock, hot pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the pasta is cooked, about 7-9 minutes.
Stir the tuna-anchovy paste into the pasta. Add the lemon juice. Cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until the pasta and sauce are creamy in texture, and everything has warmed through. Add the parmesan, stirring until the cheese is melted and well-blended into the pasta, adding dashes of lemon juice, chicken stock, or water, as needed. Stir in the tomatoes and basil. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve immediately.
*Le French Oven by Hillary Davis Giveaway!*
Hillary is giving away a copy of her book to one lucky reader!
1. Leave a comment below with your favorite slow-cooked dish.
2. For an extra entry, follow Hillary on Twitter (@MarcheDimanche), tweet the following, and leave a comment to let me know: I’m entered to win Le French Oven by @MarcheDimanche from @AnnMahNet. More info: www.annmah.net.
3. For an extra, extra entry share this post on Facebook. Leave a comment to let me know.
The contest ends Tuesday, October 13, 2015. A winner will be selected at random and announced here. Good luck!
(Non-food photos from Hillary Davis.)
UPDATE: The winner, chosen at random, is Karen Wirima. Thanks for playing, tout le monde!