In which I find out what all the fuss is about

My birthday present this year was a real treat, as it turns out.

I am, as anyone who has spent any time here at all will have probably gleaned, an avid cook. And for many years I have done all of my braising and stewing and so on in a big blue Dutch oven – a sturdy Lodge, because that was in the Overton window of affordability for my twenty-something self.

And it’s been great. No complaints; I can heartily recommend it to anyone looking to experiment with cooking in a cast-iron piece like this. I’ve made all manner of stews and braises and pasta sauces in it; deep-fried things and baked artisan bread and tried out various culinary firsts like bourguignon and so on.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t still quite excited to try out the replacement for it that I got as a birthday gift this year – the Cadillac of Dutch ovens, a Le Creuset. It’s a tiny bit bigger than my Lodge, but lighter, strangely enough – the walls of it are surprisingly thin, making it quite easy to lift and use. And it is gorgeous. (I shall have to work to keep that finish as pretty as possible as long as I can.)

It’s also still blue. I debated going for the red or the orange, because those are both ALSO lovely. Perhaps if I splurge on one of those enamel-interior skillets one of these days.

Anyway, I’ve now at last got round to inaugurating it – with this recipe for braised Chinese-style short ribs with Soy, Orange, and five-spice powder.

I went ahead and shredded the beef for easy serving and packing-up.

The result is delicious – and, since it’s actually the second time I’ve made this, I got the salt balance right. (If you, like me, only have regular soy sauce around and not low-sodium, this is still quite doable – you just have to go very easy on salting the short ribs and whatever you’ll be serving the meat on top of; in this case, mashed potatoes.)

I feel a bit boring for not having something more interesting to say, but it was pretty fun to make!

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