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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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…
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
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.
Our next Doufeu Test will be with Beef Brisket….