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Les Journals des Le Creuset – Normandy Pork Casserole with Apple Brandy

Les Journals des Le Creuset - Normandy Pork Casserole with Apple Brandy

Les Journals des Le Creuset – Normandy Pork Casserole with Apple Brandy

Entry 001:

I spent years researching Dutch Ovens… mostly because I couldn’t afford one.  At first I believed that Le Creuset was simply an over priced, overly colorful French brand with an over inflated ego.  But as searched for cheaper alternatives, reading the countless reviews on Amazon and around the web, I came to realize the old saying still rings true, “You get what you pay for.”  I found more negative reviews of other Dutch Ovens than I found on Le Creuset and most revolved around inconsistent heating, staining, chipped enamel and less than adequate customer service.

At long last we got our Dutch Oven and the best part is, we paid nothing!  Yes, it was an extremely generous 함 (Ham) gift from my sister-in-laws fiance.  You see, in Korean culture it is still customary, in some families, that the soon-to-be son-in-law brings a big bag of gifts for the family.  I never expected such a luxurious present.  I guess my wife did, she was the one who suggested the gift idea to Suna and her fiance!

So now begins Les Journals des Le Creuset, French for what I hope equates to ‘The Journals of Le Creuset’.  My intention is to document every meal we cook in this wonderful dish.  The benefits are three fold, 1: we preserve a beautiful memory our meals.  2: we create a dutch oven / Le Creuset cookbook of sorts for future reference.  3: anyone reading this can share in and learn from our cooking experience.

Without further adieu, let me introduce the meal that stole our trademark orange Le Creuset’s virginity:


Normandy Pork Casserole with Apple Brandy

(Source: LeCrueset.co.uk)
Prep Time 10-15 Minutes (more like 30)
Cooking Time 3 Hours (at least)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 175g (6oz) smoked bacon cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 250g (9oz) small shallots peeled
  • 1 ¼ kg (2lb 12oz) pork shoulder (trimmed of skin) 3cm (1 ¼ inch) diced
  • 60ml (¼ cup) calvados (apple brandy)
  • 2 sticks of celery diced
  • 2 crisp, sharp eating apples peeled and diced (granny smith or similar variety)
  • 2 teaspoons coarse grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 750ml (3 cups) pork or vegetable stock
  • 100ml crème fraîche
  • 2 tablespoons of cornflour mixed with 100ml (½ cup) water

To finish

  • 1 small knob butter
  • 8 fresh sage leaves

Instructions:

Oven: 170ºC / 325ºF / Gas Mark 3, pre-heated

Fan Oven: 150ºC

  1. Heat the oil in the casserole on the hob over a medium heat, add the bacon and cook until crisp. Drain the cooked bacon into a dish retaining the oil in the casserole.
  2. Add the butter to the oil and cook the shallots until nicely browned. Add the pork a little at a time, allowing each batch to colour slightly before adding the next.
  3. Once all the meat has been added and coloured pull the pan away from the heat. Pour over the calvados and carefully ignite, standing well back until the flames subside. (See cook’s notes 1)
  4. Place the pan back over the heat, add the celery, chopped apple, mustard, pepper, herbs and stock, stir well to release any caramelized pieces from the base. Bring to a gentle simmer, place on the lid and transfer to the oven to cook for 2 hours.
  5. Skim away the excess fat from the top of the casserole and discard. Stir in the cream fraîche along with the cornflour and water mixture. Return the casserole with the lid on to the oven for 15-20 minutes to thicken.
  6. Heat the butter in a small frying pan and gently fry the sage leaves until crisp.
  7. Remove the casserole from the oven, stir the contents and adjust the seasoning to taste with some pepper and salt if needed. (See cook’s note 2)
  8. Serve the casserole decorated with the crisp sage leaves on top. Accompany with simply prepared potatoes, boiled or mashed, green vegetables and some crusty bread.

Cook’s notes

  1. Igniting the alcohol is termed to flambé; it should be done carefully using a long match or barbecue lighter. Have the means of ignition ready before you start or the brandy will soak into the meat and juices and may not ignite. Always light at the edge of the dish.
  2. If using a stock cube extra seasoning will probably not be required.

Greg’s Notes:

Modifications:
(Unless otherwise stated, these modifications were made because I lacked the required ingredients.  In my small Korean town, many are impossible to find.)

  • substituted regular bacon for smoked bacon
  • substituted onions for shallots
  • substituted soju + apple juice for calvados (apple brandy)
  • omitted celery
  • substituted red apples for green
  • substituted dried marjoram for fresh sage
  • substituted dried thyme for fresh thyme (rule of thumb is 1/3 the amount when using dried spices)
  • substituted whipping cream for crème fraîche
  • cooked a day in advance as it takes about 3 hours from start to finish

Outcome:

4.5/5 Stars – The meal was absolutely wonderful.  And the Le Creuset Dutch Oven was a dream to cook in.  I noticed how evenly it cooked at low temperature and loved that nothing stuck to it.  The cheap pork shoulder I bought softened up perfectly to the point where it just broke apart into pieces in our mouth, and that’s before we even tried chewing it.  Of course, the bacon and pork yielded a fair bit of fat but that’s what makes these dishes so yummy.  My wife, baby and I gobbled everything up in less than two days.  I cooked it a day in advance and it tasted the best on day three.


Next Time:

  • loads more vegetables – thin out all that yummy meat with some chunky potatoes, carrots, onions and anything else that would seem yummy stewed

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