This is our La Cornue oven.
It just happens to be housed at Williams-Sonoma.
And they don't yet know that it's ours.
Observant readers will note that it's a Chateau 165, which I sourly remarked was the stove that Jake Linzinmeir owns in his "tiny" kitchen. Okay, I know. I'm not supposed to obsess over them. And I feel that yes, I should cut Jake a little bit of a break, because after visiting the website for Chair 8, his Telluride restaurant, I see that they have fondue -- that would be only MY favorite thing to contemplate: cheese melted with cheese and liquor. "Lobster and Brie with Wildflour Bakery Breads..." Okay, you have my attention there.
But I digress. Back at Williams-Sonoma, we only made a brief stop in and actually it was to see the All Clad (my other enduring obsession).
Since, oh, about 1992 I've had only one dutch oven, and it came in a set that I bought at Target. $49.99. Pretty good deal, I thought at the time. For that price, I got a frying pan, a one quart sauce pan and lid, a two quart sauce pan and lid and this six quart dutch oven, and lid. Now before you laugh at my thin, non-stick-lined, aluminum post-college cookware, this battered dutch oven has served me week in, week out, for fourteen years. Ms. Food Snoot when we were rooming together, turned up her snoot at it and bought me a proper sauteuse, but I never did get rid of the dutch oven because there are some things you really need it for. Heck, there are LOTS of things you really need it for. Braised Short Ribs, Coq au vin, Garlic Soup, Mushroom Pate for 60 people.
However, it is looking a little battle-weary, shall we say? So among a myriad of possibilities, I selected a few contenders for a replacement and we went to look at some of them. We got a curiously hard sell from the guy at Williams-Sonoma, who seemed really determined to show me some Mauviel copper pans. Are you kidding? For the price of a .9 quart butter warmer, I could eat at Jardiniere. I also have a little trouble with the copper thing. In my mind's eye, I keep seeing the horribly scarred land outside of Bisbee, Arizona, where strip mining all but destroyed the mountains.
No. These were our choices, which we've examined at W-S as well as other fine cooking stores around the Bay Area.
The Red 7.25 quart Le Creuset Dutch (or is that "French") oven, with enameled cast iron surface. Weight: 12.5 lbs. We had a rabbit stew served to us at a French restaurant in a mini version of one of these, and I fell victim to the reaction typically described as "female"-- "Oh, it's SOOOOO cute!!!" So that kind of counts against the Le Creuset.
The 7 quart Lodge cast iron Dutch oven, pre-seasoned "with a prized heirloom finish." Weight: 16 lbs. Okay, this one got points for maximum durability. I could see busting that out when the earthquake happens, building a small fire in it and cooking eggs over the top. Could be very useful. But 16 LBS.??? Are you kidding? In the store, I can hardly lift the cover, much less the pot. I shudder to think of trying to move it full of hot short ribs.
The 8 quart Staub, the classic--I guess that would be "French oven" as opposed to "Dutch oven"--preferably in "Grenadine" which looks to be the color of blood. Oh yeah, cast iron, pretty... 17 lbs. Ooof. Staub is out. I can see dropping that lid on my foot and it would all be over.
The Mario Batali 6 quart Essentials pot in Persimmon. Tempting, very tempting. Cast iron with ITALIAN enamel. That makes a difference (??) But the fact of the matter is, 6 quarts sounds small. We cook a lot of food, and plus, it still weighs in at 17 lbs.
Okay, so maybe what we're looking for is just the good old standard, and All Clad stockpot. They say stockpot, although it has the traditional Dutch oven size ration 2:1 width to height, and at 8 lbs. I'm willing to bet that it will serve quite nicely as the pot of my dreams.
And so we have ordered one. It's not quite the same as purchasing a La Cornue, but it makes me happy. Farewell, my faithful little Target Dutch oven.