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More Le Creuset research and a 2010 resolution.

Someone made a comment about Staub in the last post and I checked it out. That research led me to heated debates on the plastic Le Creuset lid handle which shouldn't be put in an oven. I thought this was a deal-breaker until I learned that you can either cook with it (many people do, rules be damned) or you can unscrew it and replace it with a stainless steal handle which you can buy as an accessory on Amazon, at Sur Le Table, or wherever. So that settles it because I've fallen in love with the carribean blue Le Creuset.

That leads me to this:

Why am I buying a french oven? Well, it seems like such a workhorse for making great food. And one of my resolutions for this year is to learn to master 12 really delicious dishes. I need to expand my repertoire. I make about 3 yummy dishes, but I make nothing that is truly special.

So imagine my horror when I learned I would be making Christmas Eve dinner (and New Year's Eve dinner, for that matter) and I realized I didn't have a go-to dish to make for 8 hungry people. I ended up making spaghetti with meatballs (tasty homemade meatballs, but still... what is this? 1950?). Then for New Year's, having exhausted my one big-feed dish (pasta), we gave up on cooking altogether, plopped 8 crabs on the table, and went at it like animals.

It's clear that I need to master better dishes if I want to have any kind of respectable adult life.

So tell me: What should I learn to make? Post to comments, please. Or tell me what your go-to dishes are when you are cooking for two, or when you are cooking for 6.

Photo from RIP Gourmet...


Anonymous said...

Beef Bourguignon. Ina has a great receipe and once the prep is done, it cooks itself.

K.Line said...

I have a La Creuset Doufeu - which is a dutch oven with a built in side handles (totally oven safe). In fact, you're supposed to put ice in the well (at the top of the pot), to assist in cooking (the effectiveness of this methodology is hotly debated - ha!). I cook mainly for 3 to 6 and I have a huge model. I just make less in the same pan - certainly I make enough to cook the food adequately in the space. And it's awesome. You can also cook your stew on the stove - with mine or with a conventional knob handle dutch oven. My pot (a gift) retails for more than 300 bucks, so it's not a cheap buy. But I love it.

Lisa said...

Here's a comment that has nothing to do with your request...

Invite me over for dinner and use your fancy new pot. Seriously. It's about fricking time.

Oh, and I would like to have fried chicken and mac n' cheese. So, maybe the pot doesn't need to be used.

Decorno said...

It's a deal.

Those are my two dishes. I will make them both for you. Will will all have heart attacks right before the dessert course.

Libby at Aurora Primavera said...

Red wine and this:
Easy and foolproof.
If you're feeling like Superman and can stand rustling up the ingredients and fuckin with the prep:
While seemingly plebe, this macaroni, if you follow the recipe religiously, will reward you with religious experience. Also, require liberal doses of red wine.

Jill said...

I love soups to feed a large group. Add bread and maybe a salad and you're done. My quick and easy meal for two is usually baked salmon. I usually make a marinade with 2T melted butter, 2T soy sauce, 1T lemon juice, 1T white wine and 1/4 c brown sugar. Bake for 20 mins covered at 400. Serve with a coconut rice this potato leek gratin recipe I found in domino mag of all places

Meadow said...

Actually, I'm pretty sure the Le Creuset handles are oven safe to 450. And I know for sure they sell replacement/alternative handles on their website which are totally oven-safe. Just FYI.

Meadow said...

Aaaand I just realized you totally already said that in your post. I was so excited to let you know that Yes! You still have options! that I only skimmed the rest. :) sorry!

jen said...

my most recent go-to dish is cheese ravioli with a sun-dried tomato pesto served over wilted baby spinach and a side of garlic bread. seriously - SO tasty and so easy to make but the presentation looks like you put a lot of work into it.
here's the recipe:

Erin said...

I have a Williams Sonoma green Le Creuset oven -- I think I have the 6 Qt size. Had it for years, and use it all.the.time. Love it.

The 6 qt. is a good size, IMO. Handles most common soup recipes (this is one of my fall faves: ginger spiced pumpkin for Sunset

David said...

I'll second the soup suggestion. I make a terrific butternut squash bisque. Also I really love my beef stew recipe, red wine and lots of onion, so good.

I used to make a polenta topped with a ragout of red/yellow peppers, onion, olives and balasamic that was always a hit, but it's one of those things you really need the recipe to get right, and I lost my recipe binder in a previous move.

I also make amazing run-on sentences.

Jules said...

Creamy polenta is a wonderful crowd meal. Make a large pot of polenta and have various toppings for people to select from: sausages and peppers (my husband's favorite), simple red sauce and extra cheese (my sons's favorite), roasted vegetables with olive oil and Parmesan (my favorite) get the idea. My recipe isn't heart friendly, but it's delicious.

Last night for dinner I made roasted chicken, creamy polenta, spinach salad. Easy weekday meal that everyone loves. Leftover chicken will go in a salad, and I will use the bones from the chicken to make stock.

You should know how to roast meats. It's simple, something you can do easily when you get home if the cut is small and a large crowd pleaser if you use something large, like a standing rib roast, tenderloin, etc.

Soups are also great. Ina's Mexican Chicken Soup (Chicken Tortilla Soup) is the best I have ever had. The good thing with soups is they are so flexible in terms of company size. If it's just for the family, you freeze the leftovers and have meals for another day. If a crowd is coming, you have enough for everyone.

Sorry for running off at the mouth. I could go on and on, but I'll stop.

Decorno said...

David - ha!

Jules - continue.

Brynne said...

I have made this for about 6 different dinner groups:

Served with garlic mashed red (skins on) potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Always, always rave reviews!

Note: Since we <3 sauce, I always double the mushrooms n sauce part and take out about 3/4 cup of the sauce, mix with flour and add back in to thicken into more of a gravy. Gawd, it's so good!

Totally not low fat or modern... but so friggin good.

Jen Fu said...

I think learning to make a good roast chicken, which will feed 2 to 4, is one of the best things you can do. There are so many variations you can do with that, and then you can make the carcass into stock.

R.J. said...

A Creuset calls for a cassoulet

Goji said...


BlackGeekGirl said...

My go to dish for years has been this whole chicken cut into 8 pieces with shallots recipe. It is a scary simple recipe yet people always (except once when I attempted to improvise) always rave. But recently I have added Ina Garten's Mac and Cheese to my repertoire. It has been an over the top hit with friends and family. Plus improvising has not hurt it. I just got my FreshDirect delivery with ingredients for both dishes so I can have them for meals in the next few weeks.

my favorite and my best said...

one of the easiest and most satisfying meals in my opinion is a roast chicken, mashed potatoes and some green veg. you can change it up with different seasonal herbs and shit. if you want my fool proof recipe for all email me.
when friends come to dinner this is the one thing they request all the time.

Anonymous said...

Go-to winter dinner party menu:

Babbo shortribs, from here, in my 3.5 qt LC:
Roasted fingerling potatoes (you can do them 90% and then take them out while the shortribs go in the oven for 2 hours, then finish at ~425)
Some kind of sauteed green

Simple, easy, and everyone is always impressed

And FWIW you can cover the LC handle in foil if you are worried about it. Never had a problem.

JoAnn said...

Chicken Marbella for a crowd (pg 86 in Silver Palate) and if you want to impress a smaller group, Beef Wellington. So simple and delicious (and yes very fifties). I use extra puff pastry and top with stars. Polenta is a staple in our house, it layers well for a torta or lasagne (just use the polenta instead of pasta). However I'd rather eat fresh crab any day.....Have fun with your new blue pot!

Amanda Calhoun said...

Paella is a wonderful dish that can be made with a lot of local ingredients (for you living in Seattle) that seems quite fancy but is really quite easy. Bonus it feeds a lot of people. Just search for it on Rice + you name it.
good luck - also le creuset in Caribbean blue is the obvious color choice - good work.

Denise Smith said...

8 crabs?!?!? Darlin', you better not be talking about Blue Crabs, because my family usually eats 8 DOZEN. Going for them tonight, as a matter of fact. It's a birthday.

ruthanne 17 said...

Laurie Colwin's Roast Chicken - basically roast a whole chicken, stuffed with 1/2 a lemon (or onion, or orange) for 2 hours at low heat (250 F). you can sprinkle with paprika, lemon pepper or herbs de provence and drizzle with olive oil or butter before your put it in the oven. Roast on a rack, or use thick sliced onions or big chunks of carrots underneath. Easy and yummy! "More Home Cooking" by Laurie Colwin. a great read.

Julie K said...

This looks like a bizarre recipe, but is so good. It is a slow cooker recipe, but could be adapted for your new La Creuset.

Slow Cooker Chicken in Creamy Horseradish Sauce

4 lbs. (2 kilos) cut-up chicken (I prefer using boneless and shredding the meat)
1 Tbsp. Butter
1 Tbsp. Olive oil
¾ CChicken broth
1 ½ tsp. Chicken bullion concentrate
1 Tbsp. Prepared horseradish
4 oz. (115 g) Cream cheese, cut into chunks
¼ C heavy cream

In a big, heavy skillet, brown the chicken in the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Transfer the chicken to your slow cooker.

In a bowl, stir together the broth, bullion and horseradish. Pour the mixture over the chicken. Cover the slow cooker, set it to LOW and let it cook for 6 hours.

When the time is up, remove the chicken with tongs and put it on a platter. Melt the cream cheese into the sauce in the slow cooker. Stir in the cream. Thicken the sauce if you think it needs it. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour sauce over chicken and mix.

I like to serve over pasta. It's delicious.

Vashti said...

I have a giant Creuset Dutch oven, size 20 I think, and though I typically cook for two, I use that thing just about every day. Definitely worth the 300 clams! I strive to cook everything in one pot and the larger size allows for enough room in the pan to really effectively brown things, rather than using a separate saute pan. I bought the pan to make Beef Bourguignon 5 years ago, and I must admit I've become a braising fool ever since. I highly recommend "All About Braising" by Molly Stevens (Norton). My favorite dish is her Caribbean Pork Shoulder. It will change your life.

Shelley said...

I think if you learn to make 3 or 4 fabulous soups and a few other heartier dishes, you'll be set.
I've made many recipes from Pierre Franey's "60 Minute Gourmet", and they are almost all great, but they do tend to rely on LOTS of butter, cream, egg yolks and the like. Those recipes are great for dinner parties or special occasions, but not so great for everyday cooking.
I think the book is now out of print. My first copy burned and I was elated to find a copy in excellent condition at a thrift shop for $1.00!
Besides soups, and Beef Bourguignon, learn to make beef stroganoff and coq au vin - chicken in red wine sauce. If you like
linguine with white clam sauce, I've got a great recipe I can send you. Oh and pasta carbonara - I've got a good recipe for that as well.
Ina Garten is wonderful. I have 2 of her cookbooks now. Learn to make your own salad dressings - so easy and so much better than store bought. I have several recipes I can send you for those.

Brittany said...

Ha! I love reading your home design posts, but I'm such a decor loser that I don't have much to contribute. On cooking, however, the matter is different!

I bought a Le Creuset French Oven (oval, not round) last year at an outlet and it's wonderful. Perhaps the easiest, most interesting dish I've ever made in it came from GOOP.

Don't click away! Ignore the fact that this recipe came from a celebrity blog! The dish is very good, very complex, and paradoxically, easy to make.

She stole the recipe from Mario Batali, so he's the one who deserves the real credit. And it comes with an interesting salad recipe, too, so all you would need is to pick up a great baguette and the table is set.

Here you go: Chicken with Olives and Saffron

NOTE: You can use fresh lemons (I did) instead of preserved ones, and it still tastes great without the addition of "pimenton" (which I didn't have) or pomegranate seeds. And if you decide to make the fennel and orange salad and you can't find blood oranges, any type of sweet orange will do.

Marija said...

Having been suckered into cooking for Christmas eve AND New Years Eve, a go to easy dish that allows you to actually get out of the kitchen is a must. I went with spinach stuffed manicotti - nearly impossible to mess up, totally easy to fancy up. You can't cook this in your dutch oven but still a good choice!

Okay, now to the point: For dutch oven, I have two standbys French Onion Soup and Minestrone. And just now reading this post realized the lid is indeed plastic and probably shouldn't go in the oven. Whatev. No disasters yet....

emmaline said...

I love making posole for a crowd - slightly exotic but comfort food too. Everyone will be impressed. Great for the Super Bowl. Here's my recipe:
Also don't waste your money on a LeCreuset - there are plenty of brands out there that are just as good and only cost 10% of what a Le Creuset would. I got mine at Marshall's for $30 and I'll have it the rest of my life. It's "Outset" brand.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

A lamb tagine (check my food blog, The Aesthete Cooks). I just posted a recipe for it, which is fantastic and can be amplified easily to feed an army.

Weeping lamb, which is a boneless leg of lamb roasted over thinly sliced potatoes—I make it in a Le Creuset pot all the time. You just put the potatoes in the pot and then place a small rack on top of the top and set the lamb on top of that and roast away. It "weeps" into the potatoes.

Butternut squash soup


tiffany said...

I second the suggestion of roasted chicken. It's so easy to make an always presents really nicely!

There's also a great recipe from Mark Bittman on NY Times for fig stuffed pork loin. It's super easy and super impressive and definitely makes enough to feed a small army! I made it for dinner for 4 and we had leftovers for a couple of weeks.

I also find simple taco salad to be a supreme crowd pleaser. I use ground turkey instead of ground beef -- people LOVE it!

modfrugal said...

You could break in that bad boy with a big pot of mussels. It's so fast and easy. We like to create a Thai stew with our mussels...sauteed onion/garlic ginger, small amount of chicken stock, coconut milk, masaman curry paste, bring to simmer/low boil...add mussels, steam for about 5 minutes and you're done...ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh coriander. Chunk of crusty bread and a salad...dinner is served in about 20 minutes beginning to end.

House and Life said...

A quick easy one ala Paula Deen. And suprisingly you don't have to get out your fat pants (as typically Paula layers on the fat. Swiss steak. By a round eye steak and slice into stips. Olive oil in dutch oven and brown meat with salt and pepper dusted in flour. Take out when brown and raw in middle. Slice green peppers and onions and put in drippings, put steak back on top and add can of diced tomatoes (I made it will whole the other night, really good too). Add some garlic perhaps and slow cook for 2 hours. Voila! Healthy, yummy, and one pot. Beatiful.

Emily said...

I made the Pioneer Woman's french onion soup last night. It's divine. It starts with simmer onions in butter, then sticking them in the oven to caramelize and then pouring wine over them. And then it ends with crusty bread and melted cheese.

Beth said...

Recipes for your dutch oven: Beef bourguignon--I agree, either Barefoot contessa, or cooking light/2005. Braised Short Ribs over Penne from Giada/food network. I also make all my soups and risottos in my dutch oven. Wild Mushroom risotto form Giada is so good.
My dutch ovens aren't Le Creuset. One is Martha Stewart from when she had a line at Kmart. (it was less than half the price of Le creuset at the time) The other one is from Mario Battali. I also have Mario's lasagna pan and it is the BEST!

amm said...

I cannot recommend strongly enough that you get thee to a bookstore (or amazon, or whatever) and get a copy of Mark Bittman's _How to Cook Everything_. The book taught my husband to be quite a good cook, coming from no kitchen know-how at all. And I like his recipes too.

Also, a few easy Dutch oven dishes to know:

Mark Bittman's lentils and rice

Deborah Madison's potato and chickpea dish from _Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone_ (another book I highly recommend), which is super easy, delicious, quick, and a good use for a Dutch oven.

Also, this: (You can see how deeply I love Bittman.)

Nigella Lawson's chicken thighs with sausages in lemon/olive oil marinade. I saw it on her show a million years ago, but the recipe is online. We usually leave out the sage and Worcestershire and it's still delicious.

A good basic ratatouille. I've always used my mom's recipe, which is, basically:

1 whole eggplant, peeled, cut into 1 inch cubes, and salted the hell out of and set in a strainer to drain off some of the water while you do everything else (Mark Bittman says he's experimented and found the salting step to be unnecessary, though, so you can probably skip this if you forget or don't feel like it)

saute 3-4 peeled, whole cloves garlic and 1.5-2 chopped fist-sized onions in 1/3 c. olive oil til golden, not browned


2 bell peppers (I prefer red/yellow/orange to green), cut into 1 inch pieces

3-4 summer squash, cut into 1 inch pieces

3-4 zucchini, cut into 1 inch pieces

the aforementioned eggplant

Add 1 large can of whole tomatoes that has been swished quickly through the Cuisinart. If you don't have a food processor, this is not a big deal, just buy diced or strained tomatoes, if you think of it, or stir more often to break them up if all you have is whole.

Add s+p to taste. Also, 1/2 t. each of basil and oregano. I like it more basil-y, myself, and I also usually add a bay leaf or two.

Let cook on the stovetop for about an hour. Be sure to stir regularly and lower the heat as needed to prevent sticking and burning on the bottom.

Serve over rice, polenta, you-name-the-starch, really, preferably (but not necessarily) with some freshly grated parmesan, some good crusty bread, a salad and some red wine.

All of these are staples for us.

OK, I'll shut up now.

gquaker said...

For 6, I'd do mussels with french bread, or a Guiness beef stew wtih polenta on the side. If you have a roasting pan, you can't go wrong with a stuffed pork loin or roast chicken, with mashed potatoes. If I'm cooking for our vegetarian friends, than its manicotti or cheese lasagna, with baked brie en coute for an app, so they still feel good about their life choices.

French ovens are also great for frying (chicken, doughnuts, etc) and baking crusty no-knead bread. I use the Cooks Illustrated recipe and it works great.

Sarah said...

I try to keep things simple when entertaining for a group of 6 or more. The more prep I can do before the guests arrive - the better.

In the winter I use the slow cooker a lot to prepare comfort meals. There's nothing like roast beef with garlic mashed potatoes and gravy on a cold night!

Pork Tenderloin is always a crowd pleaser.

A greek inspired meal with baked chicken, greek salad and zucchini fritters.

Ham + Butternut Squash & Sage Risotto + Champagne = AMAZINGNESS.

For more laid back, fun entertaining I'll make pulled pork sandwiches, chili, pasta.

And of course, there is always fondue!

Here are some recipes:
Simple Roast:

Pork Tenderloin
(I make two large for a crowd):

Greek inspired Meal:
(I used boneless chicken breasts)

Anonymous said...

What about a herb crusted rack of lamb? Use Japanese bread crumbs instead of regular ones. Thats what I made for new years dinner and it turned out well.

My favorite salad is Ina's tuna salad, its rare tuna steak with avocado and a bunch of other stuff, its amazing.

Also, for dessert try Ina's recipe for Pavlova, its so good!

I love that you love Ina!


Anonymous said...

I second the Chicken Marbella. It looks so fancy but it is so easy. And no more than 30 minutes of prep work day of.

Anonymous said...

I second the Anon post of Ina's Beef Bourguignon, it is amazingly good!

Karla said...

I have family and friends over frequently and have been surprised at what's gone over the best...a crockpot of sloppy joes was my bigggest hit. Excellent, simple, homemade recipe for sloppy joes Taco soup is great as it's a familiar flavor and can still be jazzed up with chips, cheese, and sour cream. Butter Ritz Chicken is also good...I just did this along with mac&cheese and a salad for my parents when they visited and Mom took the recipe home

HOBAC said...

Braised shank of lamb with parsnip purée (from Gordon Ramsy's Kitchen Heaven, which is brill), here -

Alayna said...

My mom started making this stew when I was a kid and it is my absolute favorite. You should absolutely try it some time, there are so many vegetables and it always looks beautiful. I always start to crave it when the fall rolls around. ;)

hunkate said...

RIP Gourmet, indeed. How I miss thee...

My husband and I looove making a huge pot of chili that lasts a week for ourselves or is great for a party. Ours has ground beef, kidney and black beans, tri-color peppers, hot chili peppers, corn, tomatoes and whatever else we feel like adding. I think it's great to work on perfecting a recipe that can be "yours" like this - so you can defend it in friendly/family competition!!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, still won't eat polenta.

Potato Pancakes are great for people willing to eat at the stove.

You need:
*As many potatoes as you can carry with one arm feeds three
*2 eggs beaten - the older the better
*1/2 minced purple or yellow medium sized onion
*1 pinch of baking powder (pinch then shake your pinched fingers before putting in the mixing bowl)
*5 screws of coarse ground pepper
*1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
*sour cream - topping
*chunky applesauce - topping
*2 tablespoons of any oil
*2 tablespoons of any kind of flour

Ugly part: peel potatoes and grate on the ouchy side of your grater. Give up on a spud as soon as your fingers touch metal and move on to the next.

Put the potato slurry in a bowl and press down to separate the liquid. Pour off excess liquid. Don't fuck with it all day, just get some of the water out of there before you mix your shit up.

Mix up the flour, powder, eggs, salt, pepper, and onion.

Heat up your iron skillet with oil on medium high. Don't fuck around with the highest setting. You're going down to 'lowest of high' setting as soon as you see cooking take place.

Take a soup spoon and set a blob of your slurry on there. Press down on the blob to make a pancake (it will push out liquid, so be fucking careful). Let it sit for 3 minutes. Flip. Cook the other side for 3 minutes. Remove and place on old newspaper to soak up oil.

Feed your hoard as you make the potato pancakes.

In reality, I flip those fuckers as often as I see fit. More experienced cooks leave them alone.

Anonymous said...

I think braises are the greatest company+leftovers dish ever.
all of these recipes are in regular rotation and awesome!

pork with meathenge:

arrosto di maiale al latte

tomatillo chile verde

this slightly lighter version of lucques shortribs:

duck legs! at least double this recipe and replace the cabbage with brussels sprouts:

lk (Healthy Delicious) said...

braised chicken with grapes - delicious and really impressive

crispy duck with spiced whiskey sauce - we've planned dinner parties with the only reason being to serve this

Anonymous said...

I have better success when I keep it simple - a large pot of chili, butternut squash soup, Thai green curry... but I like to make the meal more special by "fancify-ing" the side salad. It's seldom we have interesting tossed salads at home, yet it's so easy - add herbed goat cheese, scallions, pine nuts, dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, etc. (whatever compliments the main dish) - and I agree that home-made dressings are much tastier (and again, easy)

Anonymous said...

Roasted chicken and potatoes. Easy. You pretty much cant screw it up.

Brick roast, as long as you know how to cut meat against the grain, also easy.

I also like to make roasted root vegetables and wild rice for dinners. They look very pretty and its easy.

I DONT make soups for groups of more than 6 because it causes too much hecticness in serving. You have to get rid of those soup bowls, what if someone deosnt want soup? then they are waiting for others to finish, OR the food is getting cold.

yvonne s. said...

I make this in my le creuset dutch oven. Chicken with Israeli couscous

it's great for weeknight, take the leftovers to lunch or freeze them.

Eileen said...

Denise Smith:
Blue crabs are fabulous (I have some Maryland roots), and I can eat about 13 of them myself, but the Dungeness crabs we have in Seattle are MUCH bigger, and I can usually only eat about 2 of them!

I'm assuming our Decorno Gal meant Dungeness crabs for her guests!

Enjoy your Blue Crab dinner--I'm jealous!

Anonymous said...

1. ROAST CHICKEN! So easy, hardly anyone does it any more, and you can do a million side dishes such as:

a.pan fried gnocchi, broccoli, and red pepper flakes. (just buy the gnocchi at trader joes!)
b.blanched green beans with julienned bell pepper and slivered almonds sauteed in lemon juice and olive oil.
c.french onion soup.
d.gratin of your favorite vegetables and potatoes.
e.plain wilted chard with balsamic vinegar.

2. Gratins! Super versatile and easy to do ahead, just know how to make a proper béchamel.

3. Coq a Vin. Traditionally done with rooster, but chicken thighs work perfectly. Plus, they are cheaper cuts which is always nice when entertaining.

4. Risotto. Once you know how to make one you can really make any kind. Mushroom and pea is a classic, but look up a recipe for whatever seafood is currently in season in Seattle and you are set. Leftovers can be made into fried risotto balls with Giada de Laurientis' recipe.

5. Soups and stews. Butternut squash is my favorite. Epicurious has a great butternut squash with frizzled leeks and curry. Epi also has a miso-ginger consomme that is to die for, and I add baby bok choy and shiitakes.

6. Cream pasta with peas and prosciutto. Perfect for NYE because it goes great with champagne!

My personal favorite cooking resources are Savour, Epicurious, Ina, and The Flavor Bible which is more of a flavor flow-chart than a recipe book. But once you have a few staple dishes (such as a gratin, or a basic soup recipe) under your belt, its great for tweaking or bringing a different ingredient into an existing recipe.

Val said...

This whole discussion makes me so hungry...

Jules is 100% right -- start roasting. It's the easiest way to feed a crowd of carnivorous types and it means that the stovetop is free for you to work on side items. A good roast chicken is not difficult at all and always seems to please everybody. It's one of the first things I learned how to cook when I left home.

Also totally agree with the votes for Beef Bourguignon and Coq au Vin, both of which are really simple and really impressive at the same time. Mastering the Art of French Cooking will not fail you (if you're reasonably sure that your arteries can take it...).

And whoever said mussels is a fucking genius.

jnl said...

Do you have Cooks Illustrated's "Best Recipes"? Most of the stuff mentioned here is in there. They have dependable recipes for Beef bourguinon, Coq au vin, chicken provencal, roasted pork loin w/ an herb bread crust and stuffed w/ herbs, anyway I think you get the picture.

A cook book like Best Recipes is dependable and does a good job of explaining how they come to develop their "best" recipes for a lot of classic dishes, which looks like something you're trying to accomplish.

Anna said...

Lamb shanks or osso bucco slow cooked in a white wine & vegetable stock. Served with creamy garlic potato mash, or couscous. Or you can go slightly high brow with a sweet potato & swede mash.

Perfect dutch oven fare.

Ivy Lane said...

I am gonna try Julie K's recipe for sure... I don't have any advice on the recipe of choice for teh Le Creuset... but am sure glad I visited today for all the super ideas for what to make for dinner!! You must post the "winners"!!!

Jamie said...

Go buy Julia Childs' book. No joke. My wife is a very good cook and she finds it simple to use as do I. The meals we have made with it, without fail, have been some of the best we've had whether at home or out.

We recently made a simple pork chop recipe... The pork chop itself and the sauce were punishing-ly awesome. Safeway pork chops can taste like what?!

Anonymous said...

I would also suggest French Onion Soup. Emeril Lagasse has a great one which calls for brandy which enriches the flavor. It's a great meal served with a good bread and salad or as a starter for a braised dish. When done right it makes a great presentation. It calls for an egg at the end which I eliminate. It is truly optional.

Jamie said...

Go buy Julia Childs' book. Seriously, as corny as this sounds, my wife and I make lovely meals from it all the time. We're 30-31 and we made the best pork chop we've ever had from it. Restaurant meals included (who has pork chops in restaurants?).

Arched Brows said...

Not just Roast Chicken,
Nigella's Slow-Roasted Garlic Lemon Chicken.

Quatorze said...

Try a beef tenderloin; easy to cook, and elegant for a party. Serve with Bearnaise sauce and grilled vegetables. Starter could be a salad but pate on toast rounds works great too.

Cyn said...

The dishes that I make most I love because I can tweak them to accomadate whatever is fresh at the store or use what I have in the freezer.


Scrambled Eggs (Seriously - with herbs, goat cheese, lox, caviar, etc.)

A good roux

Tomato sauce

Tenderloin (Beef, pork)

Roast Chicken

Homemade Salad Dressings

Minus75 said...

Get Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook. It is a feast for the eyes and has some wonderfully simple and unbelievably tasty recipes.

Stacy said...

Pasta alla Norma is a really common Sicilian dish that isn't hard to make but one-ups regular spaghetti. Use bucatini if you can find it (I never have) or linguine or whatever long pasta you have. Garlic, tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and salted ricotta cheese FTW. I made it for my in-laws and they practically licked their plates and inhaled second helpings. Sadly, I have not posted it to my blog yet because it vanishes before I can take photos.


Pan-seared sea scallops in buerre blanc with in-season green veggies and a starch.

Pad Thai always goes over well, too, and you can switch up the protein (tofu, shrimp, chicken) depending on the guests.

east side bride said...

Risotto all the way! It *seems* fancy, but it's super easy to make.

east side bride said...

p.s. we have a big old cast iron dutch oven we bought at a flea market. works just as well as the damn le creuset.

Lise said...

Good to know about the replaceable handle. I too love the blue le creuset and was only mentioning the Staub because I didn't know the handle was replaceable.

MerciBlahBlah said...

Okay, I just saw your cautionary note, and can I say I LOVE YOU. Could you also add ROFLMAO and Amazeballs to that list?

On to the question at hand...

I totally agree with roast chicken. Giada has an amazing citrus stuffed/marinated roast chicken that you can find on So so soooooo good.

I also second Paella. It can be a lot of prep, but totally pays off. I make it with mussles, shrimp, and chicken, but it's one of those things you can change to suit you (or your guests) tastes.

I may be the only person in the comments who does not have a dutch oven. Methinks I needs to get one toot sweet!!!

dcgirl said...

I saw several mentions of Nigella, and I cannot recommend her "How to Eat" enough. She talks about food, explains what she is doing - it's like having her there in the kitchen with you. She covers all sorts of tasty food, menu planning, nothing is too difficult, and the front section is basics and how to build on them. Like a fool-proof roast chicken.

Everyone needs a good tomato sauce in their rotation. They are easy and you'll never go back to the jar. Giada has a good one. ( From there you just play with it and add what you want. I often add some wine or balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, a pinch of sugar, and some pepper flakes. And if I'm feeling lazy I leave out the celery and carrot. Which honestly is most of the time. And it's still tasty. Make a huge batch and freeze what you don't eat.

And yum - mussels! Also, Jamie Oliver has a great beef stew recipe:

Anytime you want to talk about food - bring it! Of course, I could talk about alcohol all day too...

Lolo said...

I second the risotto, it can be either a hearty home style feed or fancy up to impress a small dinner party with little effort. The tricks are to first pan roast the rice and to keep your liquid very hot in a side pot as you add it. One of my go to dishes is thai green curry. I make enough to freeze and have on hand for "emergencies" and can have a chicken or seafood dinner ready in less than half an hour.

Cynthia said...

I second the Cooks Illustrated cookbooks. I have the "Best Slow and Easy Recipes" edition which has tons of recipes for the Le Creuset. Everything I've made from it has been delicious and easy. Love Cooks Illustrated!

I've left the plastic handle on with no ill effects - but I'm not cooking in it at extreme high temp for roasting.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I hope someone musters up the inspiration from deep deep down inside to give Shannon @ 6:15 a dutch oven.

I still don't like risotto and I think it's because the cooked rice gets everywhere - from the sink strainer to the silverware in the dishwasher. Also, it's usually pink/orange and animals won't eat it because they know it's bad.

Anonymous said...

Braised Oxtails!!! similar to Beef bourguignon with lots of wine and slow, slow cooking. A perfect winter meal, with a much need dutch oven. Braising on top of stove, then add liquids and then into the oven.mmmmmmmm

jOoLz said...

i love her (she's my hero actually) but ina's boeuf bourguignon uses tenderloin, for f's sake. do not make it. boeuf bourguignon should be made with chuck roast.

dishes to learn - boeuf bourguignon (with chuck!), chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, any sort of chowder (clam, corn, etc), coq au vin, emeril lagasse's asian-style short ribs.

the handle on the lid isn't something that needs to be replaced. my le creusets are almost 6 years old and the handles are fine. one thing you don't want to do, no matter how many times you see someone on food network doing it, is deep-fry in it. eventually you will fark up the enamel, and unlike a food network host, le creuset will not give you a steady supply of new *french* ovens.

i have 2 of them and love them both.

Things That Inspire said...

I seem to recall that you are in Colorado? My go-to cookbooks are all from the Junior League of Denver, which perhaps is the polar opposite of Decorno-ness, but - they have some amazing recipes. The latest, Colorado Classique - has an incredible marinade that works so well on pork tenderloin or chicken (page 168). Colorado Collage - amazing - everything I have made from there is outstanding - like the enchiladas suizas (you can double the recipe, make 30 enchiladas, and freeze 5 enchiladas sevings - makes dinner for that night, then dinner for 5 more meals). Bombay chicken from this cookbook is SO good - great for company - can make it one day ahead of time and reheat, so it is low stress on the day of.

I need to flip through my Colorado Jr League cookbooks and find some new recipes. I have every cookbook they have ever published - they are that good (and, my MIL lives in CO).

Amy said...

I am in a similar boat - I'm trying to be a grown up and be able to feed a crowd at a moment's notice. I haven't come close to my goal, but I'm going to try this year as my New Years resolution to be ready to entertain or whip up a meal (whether for a group or only my husband and I!)

My mom is an expert entertainer. Not in a professional way, but the woman can throw together a meal for 30 like you wouldn't believe - I'm talking several meat dishes, several pasta dishes, several vegetable dishes, salads, desserts, INSANE!

I do notice, when there's company coming over, she doesn't skimp on any bad ingredients: butter, olive oil, salt, cheese - it is all used extremely liberally! But everyone always raves over her cooking - of course! This is a really bad tip, but one I plan on following.

Anonymous said...

Ina's Garten's recipe for Beef bourguignon is simple, elegant, and a lovely winter meal to serve to guests.

Emom said...

Crock Pot....Boston Butt...BBQ sauce....6 hours on high & 2 on low....(listen, I have 3 college aged boys!) when done, chop, take out bone and any fat still recognizable, and serve with hamburger buns, potatos (anytype, or style) a green-something, and lots of "sweet tea". Call it "Dinner Southern Style"....smiles.

Anonymous said...

Marinate chicken breasts in Italian salad dressing. Depending on how long I forget they're there, they can marinate anywhere between 2 minutes and 2 hours.
This is my never-fail go to.

MimiRuse said...

I think a must-have dish in your "cooking-for-two" repertoire is spaghetti carbonara, and my favorite version comes from former Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl. Simple and delicious, your family will beg you to make this dish over and over. It's so easy that it doesn't feel like "real" cooking, but the flavor is divine.

A link to the recipe ...

Jessica Interiors, Etc. said...

Twenty-seven years ago, my Mama gave me a crock pot for our wedding gift (along with other things)...Aunt Lily, who has Alheimers, refers to it as "the crotch pot), and now, we do as well..Anyway, crotch pots are very fifties, but very handy.
I do chicken wings, but not the Buffalo kind..they are too hot for me. Get the drummettes (sounds like a drum and bugle corp), broil them for fifteen minutes, turning once, put them in the crotch pot, and put a mixture of: one 16oz bottle of Jack Daniels BBQ Sauce, a tablespoon of honey, and a tablespoon of prepared mustard, and a tablespoon of worcestershire sauce..and cook on low for three and a half (or just keep them in there to serve) hours..yum..the dip is Amish crumbled blue cheese, a tablespoon of white wine vinegar, and a bit of the blender...
You can take the wings out, and transport them in a large pot, and rewarm them. seriously

Carrie said...

I got the easiest fennel soup recipe in the world from the farmers' market and was shocked by how much I like it. I'm not even a big fennel fan, really.

2 small tart apples
2 small onions
3-4 fennel bulbs

Chop the above, including the fennel greens. Saute. Add 4-5 C broth. Cook until tender, then blend.

Bonus: for some reason, chopping the fennel after the onions gets the onion smell off your hands.

Effie May said...

Spaghetti Bolognese via Norway. Simmer some bone-in pork ribs or the bone from a port butt (from which you have cut off the meat and cubed it for a Mexican pork stew) in 1 lg can each diced tomatoes and whole tomatoes & a small can of tomato sauce, for an afternoon. Halfway through throw in a lot of chopped carrots (3), some oregano & a bay leaf. (You can also add celery if you want, but I don't.) An hour before dinner, saute onion, garlic & 1 lb Italian sausage (or hamburger or omit the meat). Take the bones(s) out of the sauce, cut off whatever meat is on them and throw the bones away. Add the meat and sausage mixture to the sauce and simmer another 20 min. (Taste for salt -- you probably won't need it.) Serve over pasta or polenta, or make baked ziti. (Another crowd pleaser.) You will not believe how good this is. It also freezes well, so you can make a lot and freeze some for the next time.

Shelley said...

YES a crockpot is a must have. I had 3 that burned up in the fire of '07 and they were the first things
I replaced when we were living in our rental and rebuilding.

Mashed potatoes - you make them 2-3 hours ahead of serving and keep them warm in the crockpot-!

It's the BEST way to serve mashed potatoes EVER! They are so user-friendly because you
do not have to deal with boiling and mashing potatoes at the last minute. You will never want to serve them any other way once you try this method.

Anonymous said...

A menu of basics that can be varied / paired based on the season:

1) Roast Chicken (as everyone has said)

2) Pork Roast (the ultimate comfort food, and so easy)

3) Chicken Noodle Soup... with homemade egg noodles. Noodles are a cinch, and the difference is like night and day.

4) Develop a short list of go-to soup/stew recipes (Vegetable, lentil, minestrone, chili, beef and lamb stews, Moosewood's Carrot Soup, etc...). Get a hand blender if you don't already have one.

5) Pork Tenderloin

6) Strata (a 1-dish egg "casserole" of sorts). Has infinite variations & will take you from brunch thru dinner.

7) A short list of go-to pasta sauces and dishes for all seasons: Bolognese, Puttanesca, Feta/Pea/Mint, etc.

8) Several good homemade marinades (and real homemade teriyaki, which puts all other versions to shame)

9) A really good BBQ sauce/dish (pulled pork, ribs, or whatever you like).

10) Nigella Lawson's guacamole (ironically... I live in So Cal and still seldom see "real" guac). A good raw salsa recipe (use citrus juices), and a few good fruit salsas for grilled items.

11) Make your own salad dressings.

12) A really good entree-worthy chilled lentil salad to eat during summer

13) A go-to list of seasonal fresh vegetable sides

14) Homemade ice cream & sorbet

this humble abode said...

It's not formal, but everyone loves tacos. I use this recipe for carne asada, and it's hugely popular every time I make it.

I am totally obsessed with Ina, so my recommendation is to buy ALL of her cookbooks and learn to cook from her. I have probably made about 50 of her recipes and never had a failure.
Of her recipes, I suggest the Pot Pie, Lemon Fusilli, Perfect Roast Chicken, Butternut Squash Soup, and Asian Noodle Salad.

Go with a light supper of lentil soup, fresh bread, cheeses and a fantastic salad. Then serve an over the top dessert like Beatty's Chocolate Cake, Profiteroles, or French Apple Tart.

jandosto said...

Chilupa is a great recipe for a large crowd. Super easy and tasty tasty! (Pork slowly cooked in a Le Creuset caribbean blue pot with cumin, chili powder and chilies and then served with condiments like avocado, tomatoes, green onions and so on.)

If there are vegetarians I like to make a soup with white beans and kale or swiss chard. It's also easy and tasty and healthy.

I have a friend who doesn't understand the appeal of these Le Creuset pots because of their weight. She claims you have to be a body builder to tug them off the shelf.

Hanako66 said...

wait. i'm not supposed to put that handle in the oven??!!!

Anonymous said...

Decorno, I just read all 88 other posts and actually think that your spaghetti and meatball dinner sounded the best.

Anonymous said...

Say "hello" to Cassis:

Not sure if it's available outside of the UK, but I've emailed to find out.

I have the large red oval (not sure what size; it was a gift) and I LOVE it. I've made Julia's BB twice, plus lamb shanks and lentils. It just sits on my stovetop like a piece of sculpture.

Anonymous said...

I also do a Guinness stew using the recipe in Epicurious for Beef and Guinness Pie (without the pie part). Double the recipe. Add extra green peppercorns.

Their posole-like recipe for Pork and Hominy stew is also a good one for a big heavy pot. Tasty.

I'm surprised living in Seattle you haven't taken advantage of the Market variety of seafood to make bouillabase or cioppino.


Effie May said...

On Le Creuset: I bought a big set in deep blue 30 years ago for about $260. I was a single mom, unemployed, and my friends thought I was crazy. I have had the last laugh. I have put the Dutch ovens in the oven hundreds of times and have never had a problem with the lid handles (there is probably a 350-375 deg limit on this). Of course, you should never cook over high heat or use metal utensils. Unfortunately, these are rules a succession of careless roommates ignored, so the insides of my ancient pots leave a lot to be desired. No matter, they are still perfect for cooking soups & stews and get used multiple times a week. One of the best investments I ever made.

jandosto said...

Here's the recipe I mentioned earlier today. I serve this with rice too.

1 lb. pinto beans
3 lb. pork roast (I think I've always used loin)
7 c. water
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 (4 oz.) can green chilies, chopped

See also condiment suggestions at end of recipe.

Place beans, roast, water, onion, garlic, seasonings, chilies and pimentos in heavy kettle, Dutch oven, or crockpot. Cover and simmer on top of range about 5 hours or until roast is fork
falls apart and beans are done. (Note: this can easily be re-heated, so don't be afraid to start it early.)

Remove roast and break up with fork. Return meat to pot. Cook chalupa uncovered about 1/2 hour. Serve with corn chips and condiments like chopped tomato, chopped avocado, chopped onion, shredded lettuce, grated cheddar chesse, taco sauce, etc. Serves 10-12.

melissa said...

The delicious (although somewhat porcine of late) Jamie Oliver has a great fish pie that looks much harder than it is. Am happy to forward the recipe if you're interested. Otherwise, I love to do a pork shoulder in my dutch oven (None of my - many - Le Creuset dishes have ever melted in the Viking). I marinate it overnight in a mix of salt, apple juice, and water. In the morning I dry rub it with rosemary, oregano, garlic, and lemon zest. Then I cover it with parchment, slap it in the dutch oven, and cook it for 6 hours at 225 degrees. Serve it with mashed potatoes and some sauteed greens and people think you're a genius. Voila.
Ina also has a great roast chicken, and a good bolognese is a great make-ahead dish. God. No wonder I have such a big ass.

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Decorno said...

Jan 11 5:08pm, cassis is available here. I saw it at Sur La Table this weekend.

Wow. I really want to thank everyone who left a comment. It's clear that readers of this blog love food more than sofas. I think that's a good thing, really.

Kwana said...

Sorry to be late here but you will love your Le Creuset. I went or a large one or my family when I finally got one this year. I was so excited of course I wrote a post about my first dish.

Newell said...

After 99 comments, is there anything else left to add? I couldn't read through all but am compelled to make sure these are on your list: 1. Roast chicken doctored up any way you like (unbeatable), and 2. Pork shoulder with a couple of onions, carrot or two, a broken-up garlic head, a little wine, a splash of fish sauce (a little extra umami never hurts)...cooked at a low heat for several hours until it literally falls apart with a fork.

Anonymous said...

You need to get a copy of Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Italy
The chicken cacciatore recipe is foolproof and the results are impressive.

You buy a cut-up chicken, marinate it and a clove of smashed of garlic and some rosemary sprigs, and bay leaves in a bottle of chianti in fridge overnight.
Next day you toss the chicken in some flour, brown in olive oil on both sides in your 5 quart le-crueset, toss in a can of whole tomatoes, a handful of pitted olives some anchovies (don't wince, this is what adds depth of flavor) bring to a simmer, cover, put in oven for 1 and a half hours, and you will not believe how delectable it comes out. You can add red chile flakes and I add dried mushrooms. makes it even more earthy. Serve over polenta, or with a big crusty loaf of bread to sop up all juices.
One more thing a chef taught me: Whenever you braise, get a piece of parchment, cut to size of pan lid, run it under water, crumple it up a little then spread over the food before you put lid on pan.
This keeps the juices concentrated (all that condensation that would end up on the lid stays in the food)

stephendrucker said...

A good one to know is Ina's Indonesian Ginger Chicken.

Four ingredients (honey, soy, garlic, ginger) over eight chicken pieces, then into the oven. Serve it with jasmine rice and her oven-roasted carrots.

They will all drop dead.

Robin said...

Descoware off of Eb_y, cheaper and better than Le Crusty. You can find it in blue, but it will take longer.

akimbo said...

Two chicken recipes for you:

Lemon Rosemary Chicken
For two chicken breasts: line a small baking pan with foil, and cut up one lemon into 8-10 slices and lay on the bottom of the pan. Place skinless chicken breasts on top of lemon slices, and rub a bit of olive oil over chicken. Grind up 1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt, black peppercorns, and dried rosemary in a mortar and pestle. Sprinkle mixture over top of oiled chicken and bake at 375 until cooked, about 40 minutes or so.

"A Little Chicken and Garlic Stew" (from Rozanne Gold's "Little Meals").
2 T. olive oil, 4 chicken legs separated into legs and thighs, 25 garlic cloves, unpeeled, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1/2 cup chopped celery leaves, 1&1/2 tsp. dried tarragon leaves, 1/2 T. sea salt, 1 cup white wine (preferably Riesling), 1/2 tsp. allspice, and freshly ground white pepper.
Place everything in a heavy pot that an be covered tightly. Cook at 375˚ for 1 an 1/2 hours. The chicken will not brown, but will be very moist and the "sauce" is mild. Serve with a green salad and crusty bread, and squeeze the cooked garlic onto the bread. Smells heavenly while it cooks, and the hardest thing about it is chopping parsley and celery leaves! We have made this for Christmas dinner before because it is so easy, and while it is cooking we get to just hang out and have a glass of wine and watch a movie.

Enjoy, and have fun with your cooking endeavors!

eM said...

beef bourguignon, coq au vin, braised short ribs, pork tenderloin. Panade, quiche, strata for brunch. never underestimate chard as a side: cut out ribs, boil 3-4 mins, shock in cold water, squeeze, saute in butter, salt+pepp, at end throw in a handful grated parm reg. ( that you buy and grate yourself, yo) Down side of this dish is that you need a bunch of chard per one or two ppl, but it is amazingly delicious. esp w/ spaghetti + meatballs ;-)

france said...

Jacque Pepins fast food my way recipe for cassoulet. oh my god. ready in 30 minutes, tastes like youve been cooking all day. It even satisfies my kitchen nazi foodie husband Joe. perfect big dinner dish. We have every Le Creuset pot known to mankind, & I sill pull out that big dutch oven every time.

Effie May said...

I was so inspired by all the suggestions that I emailed a number of the recipes to my (stay at home) husband. He surprised me when I got home with a pot of jandosto's "chalupas," really a carnitas chili. Served a la soft tacos in corn tortillas w/ condiments. Terrific & very comforting on a rainy night. Destined to be a new regular on our menu rotation. Thanks jandosto!

Cyn said...

I had to come back and post about roast chicken. After a longtime out of the kitchen, have been a wee bit busy with the new bebe, I made a rosted chicken tonight. OMG, seriously so delicious - I washed the bird, liberally salt/peppered the cavity then added an onion (quarted) and a whole lot of fresh thyme(shoved it all into the cavity). Out of control good with boiled mini yukon gold potatoes and broccoli with lemon zest.

Quatorze said...

Too much SPAM. Please remove me from your list.

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