March 15, 2013 by Ray Yanek
Forged in the furnaces of Vulcan, cast from molten iron, then covered with a double-layer of porcelain enamel, the pot is heavy. If you don’t lift it with your legs, your spine could snap like a spine would when you don’t use your legs to lift a bad-ass, cast-iron Dutch oven. You could hit the knob on the top lid with a blow torch and the knob would, after making hurtful comments about your genitalia, laugh.
But what to do with a pot such as this? Why was it beholden unto a mortal like me?
That was a question I pondered for quite some time.
At my kitchen while the pot sat across from me eyeing me with derision, I had a vision. Maybe, some would say, the pot spoke to me.
If you sear meat in me, the pot promised, I will reward you with scrumptious brown bits.
You can deglaze me with various forms of alcoholic liquids, it said.
You can braise in me and I will return your proteins moist and juicy
Moist and juicy.
You must obey, the pot told me.
My purpose was clear—and it made me feel all giggly and silly inside.
So I bounded to the fridge and found this:
It was all coming together. But there was something missing. What paired with pork and beer? Strippers?
I mean no.
That’s what I needed. Although the plan was clear in my mind I journeyed to the internet and found this recipe by Peggy Lampman to use as a base: http://dinnerfeed.com/2012/01/26/beer-braised-pork-loin-roast-with-and-apple-kraut/ I squealed. I did all kinds of witchy-looking motions with my fingers. I did a high-kneed little Russian dance as the Pot heated on the stove. The cat, seated on the window sill, shook her head, but I didn’t care.
I put the rub together next–oil and paprika and pepper and salt—then slathered it over the pork making certain to use the proper hip motions as I did so. I took more oil and poured it into the heated pot and cackled as I watched it shimmer.
The pot was ready.
I added the pork.
The meat sizzled, the pot sang with a purpose realized. Luscious, pork-flavored smoke filled the kitchen. I flipped off the cat and when the pork turned that sumptuous caramel color on all sides, I removed it from the pot.
I think I cried a little when I did. There, in front of me, the white enamel covering the cast-iron bottom held all the delectable brown just as promised, just as I had seen on so many cooking shows.
When I recovered, I popped the tab on the beer and listened to the carbonation rumble inside the can, listened as it formed a perfect harmony with the brown bits that sizzled and popped in the oil of the pot.
I listened longer. Took a drink of the beer. Let the tension build. Took another drink of the beer. Adjusted my grip on the wooden spoon.
Then, I deglazed the pan.
I poured just a little of the beer into the bottom of the pot. A blast of steam rose from the pan and had I taken one more of that beer I made not have had the foresight to remove my face from the blast area. The children screamed. My wife cursed, and the dog packed his shit and left.
Undeterred, I used my wooden spoon to scrape all of that cooked goodness from that magnificent pot. I scraped and scraped until a dark, savory slurry formed. To the slurry, I added the apples and brown sugar, the onions, and the garlic and let them cook just a bit. When they softened, I put the pork back on top and poured in the rest of the beer to mix with the liquids released by the apples and onions.
I took the pot off the heat, covered it, and put it until a 350 degree oven until done.
The pork was moist and tender. Despite the braise and moisture, a thin bit of crust remained on the roast. The apples, the sugar, and the
onion added a bit of sweetness but also a bit of the tart. The cooked apples and pan juice made for a wonderful relish. Overall, it was a wonderful recipe. I didn’t make the apple-kraut the recipe suggested because of time, but I did mix in some of the cooked apples with some kraut and that worked.
I was happy.
But just as important as the taste and success of the dish though, cooking this was just plain fun—as cooking should be. From the sizzle of the meat, to the rush of steam when the beer was added, to the scents that hung thick in the kitchen, to the taste of the finished product, this was a complete sensory experience.
And I really don’t believe it would have been the same with any other kind of pot.
To be honest, I cooked this dish and took the photos a few months ago. So why am I bring it up now?
Because the pot wants to come out again. On Sunday. No pork this time, though. This it desires chunks of lamb, vegetables, and a pint or two of Guinness.
And as a mere mortal, who am I to deny the wishes of the Pot?
So how about you? I would love to hear your adventures cooking with cast-iron. Leave a comment!