I’ve always had a little white Dutch oven hanging out in my kitchen cupboard. For a long time, it sat largely unscathed, unmarked, unburned, its little gold knob glimmering at me whenever I opened the cabinet door, just waiting to braise something big and meaty. But then one day, pandemia gripped society, and me in my kitchen along with it. That’s when my little white Dutch oven and I got into it in the best way.
Over the next several months, there wasn’t a single thing I didn’t do with it. Literally every cooking project, big and small, seemed perfect for us to work together to make amazing, comforting, wholesome, healthy meals.
The little Dutch oven doesn’t live in a cabinet anymore; it lives right on my stovetop where I can access it at any moment. Here are just a few of the things we do together:
1. MAKE A JAM
Store-bought jams are packed with sugar and non-food ingredients. But in an hour, I can make homemade jam with my favorite fruits far more healthfully. And your Dutch oven is here for it!
Recipe: Homemade One-Hour Jam
2. ROAST A ROAST
a Dutch oven is the only tool I’ll trust for making perfectly tender, slow-roasted and succulent roasts and braises. That’s because the heavy nature of the pan means it’s best at maintaining slow, low temperatures for a long time. Not to mention the fact that you can brown the roast in the same pot you cook it in, which can’t be done in a glass baking dish or casserole.
3. WHIP UP SINGLE-POT PASTA
The key to glossy, healthier-and-better-than-restaurant pasta is adding a splash of starchy-salty pasta water to the sauce, and then finish cooking your noodles right in there. Doing this in a frying pan inevitably means noodles (and sauce) are flying all over the kitchen — even for a professional chef. But, in a Dutch oven, I can sizzle a bunch of garlic in olive oil, throw in some cooked pasta, some saved tomatoes (see number 6) and my pasta water. Stir with enthusiasm, then enjoy!
Recipe: Peach & Arugula Pasta
4. STEAM IT
Just drop a steamer basket into your Dutch oven, and whip up batches far larger than a saucepan or skillet would allow. Plus, the size of the Dutch oven accommodates heartier veggies like whole squash, long slender asparagus and whole heads of cauliflower or broccoli.
5. MAKE SOUP
This might be for captain obvious, but soups — and stocks — are my Dutch oven bread and butter. I save vegetable scraps, Parmesan rinds and leftover bones in a bin in my freezer, then toss them into the Dutch oven when the bin gets full. Then I use the stock to make soup. The heavy nature of the Dutch oven comes in handy because I can leave a soup simmering on low as I go about my day. As the goods in my little Dutch oven bubble away on the stovetop, it fills the house with savory scents that are the essence of comfort when the weather gets chilly.
Recipes: 3 Great Soups
6. SAVE THE TOMATOES
In general, quarantine launched me into thinking more about how I budget my time and resources, how to eat closer to the food chain, save money and support my community. One of the ways this manifested itself was in the form of many pounds of tomatoes I helped a local farmer save from a too-early frost. It was a lot of tomatoes, but it wasn’t too much for my Dutch oven to whip up sauces, soups and this tomato conserva, which I literally call “saved tomatoes.”
Add as many tomatoes as your Dutch oven holds, drizzle a bit of olive oil and add some alliums, then pop it into the oven for a few hours. You end up with the most amazing roasted tomatoes to add to your single-pot pasta, spread on toast or top salads with — you name it.
“Saved Tomatoes” Conserva
- 4 pounds (1814g) ripe or overripe tomatoes
- 1/2 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
- 3–4 sprigs fresh thyme or oregano
- 4–5 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 cup (250ml) olive oil
- Pinch of Aleppo pepper, to taste
- Pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Toss the tomatoes, whole or quartered for very large ones, into your Dutch oven or a large glass baking dish. Add the onions, herbs, garlic, spices, salt and pepper. Drizzle with the olive oil and know that the more you add, the more lovely oil you’ll have infused with the essence of tomato to reuse in the months to come.
Place the Dutch oven into your oven at 300°F (150ºC) degrees and cook, covered, for 2–2.5 hours, until the tomatoes are jammy, roasty and even a bit charred. Remove the lid and allow to cook for another 1–1.5 hours, to get a little extra char on there. Alternately, if the weather is hot, I like to start the tomatoes on the stovetop which saves oven heat in the kitchen. To do this, place the Dutch oven with the lid on over medium-high heat on your stove top, bring to simmer and allow to cook, covered, for an hour or so until the tomatoes begin to break down. Then, cook for 1.5 hours uncovered. If you’re doing a smaller quantity (say, half of the tomatoes), you can roast them in the oven for 1.5 hours uncovered.
When the tomatoes are jammy and confited to your liking, transfer them to a large jar or several small jars and allow to cool completely covered with a kitchen towel. When cool, place the lid on and store in the fridge for one month or in the freezer for 6 months. If you opt to freeze, storing the tomatoes in smaller quantities is preferable.
One more thing: The olive oil will set up in the fridge; don’t be alarmed. To use the tomatoes and the oil, simply allow them to come to room temp and the olive oil will be viscous and liquid again. If you use the tomatoes faster than you use the oil, you can reuse it to make more tomatoes, or you can drizzle it on anything you’re cooking. It’s truly a special treat. Makes 3 quarts
Serves: 15 | Serving Size: 3/4 cup
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 33; Total Fat: 2g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 12mg; Carbohydrate: 3g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 2g; Protein: 1g
7. BAKE A COBBLER
I love making fruit cobbler for breakfast. What makes a cobbler best suited for breakfast? Lots of naturally sweetened fruit filling and just a little bit of granola topping. Peaches, raspberries or blueberries are a favorite base, and the Dutch oven let’s me simmer up a thick layer of fruit that’s perfect for a crowd (my favorite holiday trick because everyone loves fruit cobbler for breakfast!)
8. BAKE BREAD
Quarantine pushed my Dutch oven and I into the Sourdough of the Week club, and it was awesome. The Dutch oven was the perfect tool to help me finesse my way into weekly bread enthusiasm. The heavy and highly conductive nature of the Dutch oven ensures even heat distribution, which is necessary when you’re working with drafty ovens and delicate sourdough. After a few bread bakings, my lovely white Dutch oven started to show some little burnished marks, the sign of a well-loved piece of equipment, knowledgeable and wise. If you haven’t started baking bread, yet, know that your Dutch oven is ready to tackle it (if and) when you are!
9. MAKE IT GRAIN
While I’m known for using a rice cooker to make more than just rice, there are lots of other grains that I found myself soaking and cooking in batches to fuel our fast meals, and the Dutch oven came to the rescue. Even cooking and simmering allowed me to get comfortable with farro and quinoa and to make quick risottos when the mood struck.
10. ONE POT WONDER
Being in the kitchen quadruple time became, well, a little exhausting. Between the cooking and the dishes associated with all of that wholesome cooking, I loved making one-pot meals and serving them straight from the pot. As the weather starts to turn, and we all turn into our homes again for the winter, I have a feeling my Dutch oven and I are going to dive into this cooking and eating for comfort in a healthy way. We might even just start eating straight from the pot!
Discover hundreds of healthy recipes — from high protein to low carb — via “Recipe Discovery” in the MyFitnessPal app.