A Sacramento mom dishes on parenting, family and everything in between

le creuset.jpgDinner inspiration comes in many forms.

This weekend, it came from a classic piece of cookware.

I have been pining for a Le Creuset Dutch oven for years, but the high price point of the revered cookware and the fact that I own a perfectly suitable stockpot kept getting in the way.

That changed this weekend. After seeing "Julie & Julia," (the movie is lovely, the book, not so much), I wanted a Dutch oven even more. Then I came up with an idea born from frugality - why not check Craigslist for the enameled cast iron cookware?

A quick check of the site yielded the result I was hoping for - a nice Rio Linda couple moving out of the country were selling their 9-quart Le Creuset for a fraction of what it would cost new. I remember pumping my fists in excitement when I found the posting. What a dork.

I piled my kids in the car and headed off to the northern reaches of the county. The pot rode shotgun on the way home. It was all I could do not to buckle the seatbelt around it.

Driving home, I ran through recipes in my head. Beouf Bourguignon? Nah, too fancy for the folks I was cooking for the next day. Jambalaya? Been there, done that. Some type of chowder? Perfect.

I found the recipe I was looking for in Williams-Sonoma's "Essentials of Slow Cooking", a veritable treasure trove of recipes for slow cookers and Dutch ovens.

The next day, I awoke with the same kind of glee befitting of a 5-year-old on Christmas morning. I shopped for ingredients and then set to preparing the New England halibut stew. The smell of sizzling bacon and vegetables filled the house.

soup.jpgThe stew turned out beautifully - the fish and vegetables were remarkably tender, and the flavor of the broth - just clam juice, vegetable broth, white wine and a little heavy cream - was complimented perfectly by the hint of fresh thyme.

It was a hit with our friends and family. There wasn't much talking during the simple meal of stew, fresh bread and cold beer.

"This is awesome," my husband said, scraping the last remnants from the bottom of his bowl.

He looked at me as if he knew what I was about to say.

"You're probably going to tell me that it's because of the pot," he said.


Click on the link below to go to the recipe.

New England Halibut Stew

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6
Notes: This recipe is from Williams-Sonoma's "Essentials of Slow Cooking" (Oxmoor House, $34.95, 286 pages). The recipe calls for heavy cream, but half-and-half likely would be a good substitute if you are trying to lighten the calories.

1/4 pound thick-sliced bacon, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
3/4 pound small red potatoes, diced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or bottled clam juice
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
1 1/2 pounds halibut fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, saute the bacon until crisp and golden, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Add the onion, celery, carrots and potatoes to the pot, raise the heat to medium-high, and saute just until the vegetables are softened and golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the thyme. Add the broth, cream, and wine, and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the reserved bacon.

Add the fish, cover and cook until the fish is opaque throughout and the vegetables are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the stew into warmed bowls and garnish with the remaining tablespoon of thyme. Serve at once.
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