February 23rd, 2010

Doufeu Test 1: Cider Braised Pork Shoulder with Pears and Thyme

pork shoulder pears on rice

I do enjoy a cooking challenge. So, when our local Le Creuset store manager Joseph asked if I would like to test my recipes in their signature Doufeu, I said SURE!—even before I knew what in the world a Doufeu is.

I did some hasty internet research.

In French, Doufeu translates loosely to Gentle Fire. This rather handsome cooking vessel (LOVE this color: cerise, or cherry red!) was introduced in 1935, and is now being brought back as Le Creuset honors its 75th anniversary (while celebrating 85 years of making their revered enameled cast ironware.)

This deep oval “French Oven” has a couple of distinguishing characteristics that enable it to slow braise with minimal liquid, yielding tender meats layered with rich flavors. It’s all in the design of the lid.

cerise doufeu

The outer indentation holds a mound of ice. The lid’s underside has a series of little knobby spikes. As the Doufeu cooks, steam rises within, meets up with the chilled top. Condensation occurs, and drips liquid–via the little nodules–back down onto the roast.

Effectively, it self-braises. Nice science lesson!

pork pear ingredients

For my first test, I chose a Pork Shoulder, which benefits from long, slow cooking. In Tennessee, this cut most often makes its appearance on the smoker, hickory-charred and pulled for barbecue. But, braised in cider with pears and thyme, it melts into succulence, the meat bathed in savory-sweet juices: wonderful winter fare served over brown rice.

searing the pork shoulder

TIPS: Preparation is simple. After trimming excess fat, liberally season the shoulder with salt, black pepper, and thyme. Heat the Doufeu doucement, gently. The initial searing of the meat is critical. Take time to achieve good browning on all sides before adding the pears and vegetables—you’ll be rewarded with a full-flavored broth.

ice cubes on the doufeu

Browned pork roast, sliced pears, onions, carrots, and leeks only require 1 cup of cider as braising liquid. Secure the lid, fill with ice, and let the Doufeu do its job…..for the next 6 hours!

pork shoulder cooked in cider

Six hours, you say? Mais, oui.…I took the Gentle Fire notion very literally….perhaps too seriously. I had my gas burner on its lowest setting. The beauty of LeCreuset is that its very material allows heat to build—and hold. The ice was completely melted after the first hour.

After 3 hours, I decided to peek inside. Wow! The shoulder and accouterments were steeped in this marvelous stock. I flipped the shoulder over, reset the lid, and let it continue….

It filled my home with wonderful aromas.

After almost six hours of Low-and-Slow, the pears and veggies had all but disappeared into the broth. The shoulder was so tender; I easily pulled its singular bone out clean. I removed the roast from the pot, skimmed the stock and thickened it slightly with a Slurry ( cornstarch mixed with water.)

This is not meat to slice. You pull it. You chop it up. Then, return it to that amazing gravy. Surprising: with minimal cider and fruit, it was infused with peary sweetness.

I served this lush roast , alongside brown rice, asparagus, and a salad to my Book Club. The six pound shoulder had remarkable yield–Ten of us enjoyed dinner, and there were leftovers to serve another eight!

Everyone remarked on its soft richness, and the distinct layers of flavors–fruit, vegetal, earth, meat…

overhead pork plate

Cider Braised Pork Shoulder with Pears and Thyme
approx. 6 lb. Pork Shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
Salt and Black Pepper
few sprigs of fresh Thyme
Olive Oil
1-2 Leeks, cleaned and chopped
3 Carrots, diced
1 Onion, sliced
4 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Anjou Pears, sliced
1 cup Apple Cider

Season pork with salt, pepper, thyme. Heat the Doufeu on medium, add olive oil, and brown the shoulder on all sides. Lower the heat, add sliced pears, onions, carrots, leeks, garlic, more thyme. Pour in the cider.

Cover, and fill the lid with ice. Simmer along for 3 hours. Flip the roast.
You can “redo” the lid with new ice, if you want—or just leave it filled with water. Simmer at least another 2 hours. (The bone will pull out easily.)

Serve over rice, egg noodles, or roasted potatoes.

narrow pork plate

Our next Doufeu Test will be with Beef Brisket….

Posted in Meats/Poultry, Recipes

16 Responses to “Doufeu Test 1: Cider Braised Pork Shoulder with Pears and Thyme”
  1. claudia @ ceF Says:

    just lovely. nothing like february to make you want to braise meats in all sorts of ways. i really like this recipe. pears – i wouldn’t have thought to use them but now i just might. but what i love the most is the short ingredient list… and that it’s all made from good basic ingredients.

    i suppose one could use a slow cooker or a dutch oven as well. i wonder if the liquid output would be much different.

    and me? i love brown rice. maybe not as much as pasta or polenta – but i do love it so…

  2. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Claudia, I think that great results could be achieved with the traditional Dutch oven, even a slow cooker. What I noticed different here was that it took MUCH less braising liquid (cider, wine, what-have-you) to impart intense flavor. so, maybe there’s a kind of economy in getting maximum richness with minimal ingredients.

    we need to eat more brown rice around our house!

  3. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    Pork should braised in cider with pears and thyme? I haven’t considered the combination, but it sounds divine! Succulent and comforting, especially on cold days like this one.

  4. Nancy Says:

    This is truly low and slow at its best! What an interesting cooking vessel – I’ve seen them in shops but had no idea that you are supposed to put ice in the lid. The pork shoulder looks wonderful; I also love the plates you served it on – so cute, with the the mushrooms peeking out.

  5. Judy Says:

    Can’t wait to try it! Thanks for another mouth-watering inspiration.

  6. Fluffy Says:

    that ice on top looks krazy! interesting concept….do you think it works better than a typical dutch oven?

  7. Leisa Hammett Says:

    Love the cooking prep pictures. And the title of this post…is sexy. :-)

  8. Renee Says:

    LeCreuset should make you its spokeswoman! Between the doufeu and the 5qt. fig colored dutch oven posts, I think I’m sold on this cookware…

    I was already sold on your recipes!

  9. rachel Says:

    I want to be in your book club too.
    I love the sound of this pork braise and the cherry red doufeu, it is the king of pans – I am speechless.
    Inspiring stuff.

  10. mark Says:

    Pork shoulder sounds great, would like to try with pork belly, with a hint of liquid smoke.

  11. rhonda Says:

    So williams-sonoma is having a sale on their doufeu and i started looking on the internet to remind myself how it works, came across a blog on chowhound (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/290547)
    and a post sent me here! i remembered you had posted a recipe previously, so i’m glad i was directed back to you! you’ve created quite the archive of great recipes and presentations!! Thanks! This looks like a great meal for this time of year!

  12. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hey Rhonda—thanks for this—it’s nice to know that this is reaching more folks than I realize. Cool!

  13. Amanda Says:

    I made this for dinner tonight. It was so good!! Thanks for the recipe.

  14. Lisa Says:

    Can you use the doufeu in the oven with the ice or must it be used on the stove? This is the only thing holding back my purchase. I already have a ton of LC dutch ovens. I’m looking for something that will forever replace my electric slow cooker which I detest.

  15. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Yes, the doufeu can go from the stovetop into the oven with great results

  16. Carolyn Says:

    I inherited my Doufeu from my dear mother-in-law. My husband remembers her creating many wonderful meals in it. I knew it was special but had no idea about the purpose of the lid design. I’ve used it in the oven to make divine cider braised pork ribs, but now I’m eager to try your pear and cider braised pork shoulder on the stovetop using the ice method. Thank you for enlightening me!

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