My Le Creuset has died. After 12 years of dedicated service, this workhorse of Ithaca Kitchen is ready to hang up its heat source and head to that great kitchen in the sky (you should know I’m cracking myself up with this crappy analogy).
If this Le Creuset could talk it would say, ‘lay off the butter, tubby?’ (on fire!).
But seriously I actually remember the day that my first Le Creuset was delivered from Peters of Kensington to my new home in St Kilda. I unwrapped the (ridiculously oversized) box like a kid on Christmas morning. I opted for a beautiful red, round casserole with its glorious sandy interior. I had no idea then the culinary awakening this shiny little pot would give me.
I approached gingerly to its charms. Nothing more complicated then a soup, risotto or standard bolognaise. Before I knew it, I had graduated to curries and evolved my bolognaise to a range of beautiful ragus. The times that I remember enoying it the most was when I was whipping up French or French inspired meals like Coq au Vin, Beef Bourginon or a Bouillabaisse, with these meals seeming to represent the original purpose of these cast iron wonders.
At a rough calculation, based on a dozen years of usage, I estimate I’ve prepared nearly 2,000 meals out of this baby and over that time have gone from bumbling kitchen novice to confident home cook. Le Creuset has seen the salty-disasters and experiments gone wrong, but more than anything, it has been the deliverer of soup on a rainy night, comfort food at a time of nurturing and the facilitator of big, French classics when I’m out to impress.
Not surprisingly I’m replacing my little red classic with a sparkling new Le Creuset. With a little more knowledge on the care and preparation of this classic piece of kitchen kit I’m expecting this version to last the remainder of my cooking lifetime. To kick things off and christen it’s arrival, I am going to prepare a stunning duck ragu, a favourite of the sous chef and the perfect entrée for the new arrival.
DUCK RAGU (Serves 2-3)
2 duck marylands (Legs & Thighs)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-3 slices pancetta, chopped/minced
1 large rosemary sprig, leaves removed chopped
2 thyme sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
1 tsp orange zest
400gm tinned tomatoes
1 tinful of chicken stock
1 glass of red wine
1 bay leaf
½ bunch parsley, finely chopped
1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees. Prepare the duck by seasoning the marylands and place in a small baking tin in the oven.
2. Heat olive oil and add the onion, celery and carrot cooking for 5 minutes until tender. This sofrito should soften but not brown too much. Add the garlic and pancetta and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
3. Add the rosemary, thyme and orange zest and give a stir. Then add the tinned tomatoes, chicken stock, red wine and bay. Give another stir and leave on a low heat to simmer and reduce for an hour.
4. By this time your duck should be well roasted and golden brown, and your sauce should be thickened and reduced.
5. Remove the skin from your duck and shred the duck meat. Add this meat and the bones to your sauce and mix the ragu. Return to the oven for another half an hour.
6. The sauce should have thickened beautifully. Stir through the parsley, check salt and pepper and then you’re good to go.
7. Serve with pappardelle and parmesan cheese.
WATCH OUTS: You could make this for a dinner party or larger group by roasting a whole duck and doubling all of the ingredients very easily. The duck will however take about four hours to roast and you will have to flip and baste the duck every half hour. The duck meat from legs and breast would be very plentiful and could serve six hungry people for this dish. The duck fat that renders is liquid gold. Don’t chuck it out – save it for roasting potatoes.