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Rediscovering the black pot


I bought the black pot three or four years ago, hoping that it would serve as a substitute for a steam oven for making proper artisan bread. I found it to be worthless for that purpose, so into the pantry closet it went, and it sat there unused. (A Cuisinart steam oven, by the way, was the ultimate solution to the bread-making challenge.)

At least twice in the past six or eight months, a visitor pointed to the pot and commented on what a nice pot it is. “The French call it a ‘fait-tout,'” he said — a make everything.

I resolved to get out the pot and use it for winter cooking. The pot’s first service, last week, was to make a very nice sweet potato and kale curry. Last night, the pot hosted the ultimate black-pot comfort food, beef stew. I believe it had been at least eight years since I’d made beef stew, back during my San Francisco days and the Bush presidency. I almost never bring any kind of meat into the abbey’s kitchen. I used steak, which I bought at Whole Foods (with a good bit of shame, for which I paid dearly at the cash register). It takes a lot of comfort food to survive an election like the one we just had, and no, I’m still not over it, but thanks for asking.

I also had not made artisan bread for a while, because of the carbs. I’m happy to report that, once you’ve learnt the trick of making proper bread, the trick stays with you. Last night’s bread was 85 percent stone-ground whole wheat and 15 percent unbleached white. The crust was perfect — shattery and rustic. Crust like that demands Irish butter from County Kerry, and that’s what it got.

Iron is a surprisingly good metal for stovetop cooking. It conducts heat well, and it’s perfect for things that want long, slow simmering. I wouldn’t mind having a glazed fait-tout, but unglazed iron has a lot of virtue if you’re careful about how you wash it and keep it seasoned.


  1. Henry wrote:

    I’m glad you’re healing through food 😉

    Wednesday, November 23, 2016 at 12:40 am | Permalink
  2. Karren Coplen wrote:

    I love my cast iron, and use the pieces regularly. We recently found a new use for a deep chicken fryer skillet when we built an earth oven. Once we bake our pizzas, then a loaf of bread, I put a slow cook meal in to use the residual heat and cook something overnight. A roast chicken is marvelous that way, or any kind of bean soup.

    Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 10:45 am | Permalink
  3. DCS wrote:

    So funny that you cooked beef stew because that’s what I was going to say you had the perfect pot for, but I didn’t think you *ever* cooked meat at the abbey. I couldn’t survive winter without slow-simmered beef stew — and especially not this winter of our discontent. We’ll be eating a lot of beef stew for the next four years.

    If sticking is a problem, you can pick up a nice enamel-clad fait tout without paying the ridiculous price of a Le Creuset. I have a nice one by Lodge that was perfectly affordable. Just be sure never to use metal utensils because they ruin the enamel.

    Now, if you want to go fancy/collector item, go online and get a vintage Dru Holland fait tout. It was Julia Child’s preferred cookware, and I have several pieces in the same blue pattern from the 1950s that she used. And yes, I even got the “faggy little” melted butter server (Frank added the editorial description, of course.) It’s cute as a button and, well, it serves melted butter perfectly, thank you.

    If you were more of a meat eater, I would recommend using the unclad cast iron fait tout for braising all kinds of meats. It’s perfect for that. Wet cooking avoids any sticking problems. And oh, the aromatic soups and stews you could make from there. But there are plenty of veggie options that would be great, too. Slow and low on the stove top or in the oven — that’s the way to beat the Trump blues, I mean, the winter blues.

    As Julia Child would say, Bon appetit!


    Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

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