We had an inkling that, when we asked Chef Gwenael Goulet to reveal his favorite kitchen tool, he wasn’t going to show up with a hi-tech immersion circulator. In fact, this Gallic traditionalist—the soul behind Hastings-on-Hudson’s reinvigorated Buffet de la Gare—went about as low-tech as you can. Goulet chose his Staub cocotte: essentially, an enameled cast-iron pot so homey it’s practically primitive.
Yet, as every chef knows, simplicity has its beauty. Unlike the single-function cookware cluttering today’s houseware aisles, an enameled, cast-iron pot can do anything–from deep frying to baking, from boiling to braising. To showcase his cocotte’s flexibility, Chef Goulet gives us tres-French coq au vin and cassoulet, but he also whips up miniature clafoutis, sweet cherry desserts whose tender, golden crumb showcases the cocotte’s breadth. (And FYI, “cocotte” is a double entendre: the word is also affectionate slang for prostitute.)
Although rainbow-colored Le Creuset is easier to find, Staub is the cult cocotte of chefs like Paul Bocuse and Dan Barber, who revere this Alsatian cookware for its constant thermal release and virtually indestructible enamel coating. Though both Le Creuset and Staub cookware are enameled cast iron, the undersides of the Staub lids sport stalactite-like “self-basting spikes,” which trap released vapor and rain it evenly back onto the food. This handy design feature helps prevent scorching in long, blindly braised dishes.
Staub cookware is available at Chef Central (45 S Central Ave, Hartsdale 914-328-1376), Bloomingdale’s (175 Bloomingdale Rd, White Plains 914-684-6300), Amazon.com, and—if you’re patient—the frequent Zwilling J.A. Henckels factory warehouse sales (171 Saw Mill River Rd, Hawthorne 800-777-4308). For inquiries about sale dates, email email@example.com.
CASSOULET 10 servings
Cassoulet is one of Buffet de la Gare’s signature dishes.
â—† 2 lb dried beans (lingots, cannelli beans, navy)
â—† 3 onions, peeled
â—† 2 celery stalks
â—† 2 carrots, peeled
â—† 1 bouquet garni (10 sprigs parsley, 3 bay leaves, 6 sprigs thyme, 25 black peppercorns)
â—† 6-8 cloves
â—† 15 garlic cloves
â—† Salt, pepper
â—† ½ cup duck fat (preferably from confit)
â—† 3-4 lb cubed lamb (shanks, shoulder)
â—† 6 tomatoes, peeled and seeded
â—† 2 Tbsp tomato paste
â—† 1½ lb garlic sausage (kielbasa)
â—† 1½ lb smoked pork loin
â—† 1½ lb fresh bacon
â—† 6 confited duck legs
â—† 2 quarts stock (duck, chicken, or veal)
Soak the beans overnight. Next day, drain. In a large pot, place beans, bacon, celery, carrots, 2 onions pierced with cloves, 8 cloves of garlic, and half of the bouquet garni. Just cover ingredients with water and add a little salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 40-45 minutes until beans are almost cooked. Drain the beans. Discard the bouquet garni and vegetables. Keep the bacon on the side.
In a large sauté pan, heat half of the duck fat (4-5 Tbsp), add the lamb cubes, and sauté meat until it is browned. In a large, heavy pot, place the remaining chopped onions, crushed garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, remaining bouquet garni, and 1½ quarts of the stock. Add seasoning and simmer for 1¼ to 1½ hours, or until meat is very tender.
Preheat oven at 325°F. Add to the meat the beans, bacon, garlic sausage, and confit, and simmer for a half-hour. The cassoulet should be soupy; if not, add more stock and correct seasoning. Cut the bacon and sausage in slices; cut the duck legs in half.
To a large Staub cocotte, add half the beans and lamb in the bottom, layer bacon, pork loin slices, sausage, remaining beans, and duck confit on the top. If dry, add more stock. Sprinkle breadcrumbs all over the cassoulet, then pour remaining melted duck fat on top.
Bake for 1-1½ hours until top crust is lightly browned. Serve hot.
The cocotte is perfect for making coq au vin, a French staple.
COQ AU VIN 4 servings
â—† 1 chicken (3-4 lbs), cut into 8 pieces
â—† 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
â—† 4 cups red wine (preferably Burgundy or Côtes du Rhône)
â—† 2 medium onions, chopped
â—† 2-3 carrots, chopped
â—† 4 large shallots, sliced
â—† 2 celery ribs, chopped
â—† 6 garlic cloves, sliced
â—† bouquet garni (6 parsley sprigs,
â—† 4 thyme sprigs, bay leaf, tied with white kitchen string
â—† 8 black peppercorns
â—† zest of 2 oranges
â—† zest of 2 lemons
â—† 2 cloves
â—† 2 cups beef stock
â—† Salt, freshly ground black pepper
â—† 3 Tbsp Cognac
â—† 2 Tbsp tomato paste
â—† 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
â—† 3 oz butter or olive oil
â—† 20 small white boiling onions, peeled
â—† 1/2 to 1 pound smoked bacon, thickly sliced and cut into ½-inch strips (lardons)
â—† 1 lb mushrooms, quartered
â—† Chopped parsley for garnish
Place the chicken, wine, vegetables, garlic, bouquet garni, citrus zests, black pepper, and cloves into a large bowl. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Remove the chicken pieces and vegetables from the marinade and retain the marinade. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel.
In a round Staub cocotte, heat oil or butter on medium, add the chicken pieces, and sauté until brown on one side, about 3-4 minutes. Turn the pieces and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Add the vegetables from the marinade and cook until the onions begin to brown (8-10 minutes). Sprinkle on the flour; shake the pan and turn the chicken so that the flour mixes with the oil. Reduce the heat to moderately high and cook, stirring frequently, until flour is lightly brown (about 3 minutes). Add the Cognac and ignite carefully. When the flame subsides, season. Add the marinade, beef stock, tomato paste, and simmer for about 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is very tender.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the white onions until tender, 5-7 minutes, and drain. In a large skillet, sauté the bacon over moderate heat until brown and crisp (4-5 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat; add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the white onions and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
When the chicken is tender, remove it and keep warm, discard the bouquet garni, strain the sauce, and skim off any fat on the surface. If the sauce is too thin at this point, boil it until it is reduced to a sauce-like consistency. When appropriately thick, replace the chicken in the sauce and add the bacon, mushrooms, and onions, and simmer for 10 minutes over medium heat to blend the flavors. When ready to serve, sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Coq au Vin can be served with nouilles fraiches, large squares of fresh pasta, or pommes vapeur, steamed or boiled potatoes. Also serve with fresh vegetables like haricots verts, strings beans, snow peas, carrots.
The cocotte can also make sweets like clafoutis.
Clafoutis 8 servings
â—† 1 lb ripe black cherries, not pitted
â—† 4 oz sifted flour
â—† 4 oz sugar
â—† 3 eggs
â—† 1 cup milk
â—† 2 oz melted butter
â—† 1 pinch salt
â—† 1 oz kirsch (cherry liquor, optional)
Preheat oven at 375° F. Combine cherries with 2 oz of sugar and the optional kirsch; allow to rest at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, butter an 8-10-inch Staub cocotte, or 8 miniature cocottes. In a bowl, combine sugar, salt, and flour. Beat the eggs and add to the sugar, salt, and flour. Whisk until pale. Add the melted butter and mix well. Gradually mix in the milk until you get a smooth batter. Place cherries evenly in the buttered mold and pour the batter.
Bake for 40 minutes until brown. Remove from oven, sprinkle with confectioners or brown sugar, and let it cool slightly. Serve warm.
All recipes courtesy of Executive Chef Gwenael Goulet, Buffet de la Gare, 155 Southside Ave, Hastings-on-Hudson, (914) 478-1671
Julia Sexton is a Westchester-based food writer, whose CRMA Award-winning Eater blog appears at westchestermagazine.com.