For a while now I have been contemplating the need for a cooking vessel that has not been in my arsenal. I have various Dutch Ovens – cast iron, nonstick, stainless steel and plenty of frying pans both nonstick and stainless, but there is a sweet spot between the two that I knew needed to be filled. Sometimes you need something with a large surface area that is not too deep as to inadvertently steam the food, but is deep enough to hold the dish you are preparing. I’ve thought about a chicken fryer or cast iron skillet, but really all I’ve done about it is think. So, recently when I received an email featuring the Staub 3.5 quart braiser, I was intrigued. Surface area? 12 inches. Check. Depth? About 3 inches without the lid. Check. Cook top to oven? Yes. Customer reviews? Stellar. French enameled cast iron and on sale? Yes. It was a no brainer. I needed this! So, I took the plunge, and even though I have had it only a short period of time, I am already glad I did.
After seeing an Instagram post utilizing a similar Staub piece for a recipe in a cookbook that I have recently purchased, I was inspired to try out both that recipe and my new Staub braiser. The cookbook is The Pie Room by Calum Franklin. It is a beautiful and aspirational cookbook. I’d dreamt of one day making some of the beautiful savory pies from the book, but had not yet taken the step from reading and admiring to doing. The recipe I chose to make is the Moroccan Chickpea & Feta Pie. It uses store bought phyllo dough, so not too taxing and a good entry level dish from the new cookbook. This was also a good choice for an initial trial for the pan because I started out on the stove top to saute onions and prepare the filling, and then moved to the oven to bake the phyllo topped pie. I did double the recipe for the filling and added a couple extra sheets of phyllo due to the generous size of the braiser. How was my experience? It was great. The pan heated up quickly and the onions cooked beautifully. The filling came together easily. So far so good. Next came adding the phyllo topping and baking. I have to say, I was beyond pleased with the final dish. It looked great, tasted even better and cleanup of the new pan was a breeze.
Before giving this pan my full stamp of approval, I thought I should try at least one more dish. In my internet searching I came across a recipe in multiple sources which was perfect for the pan. It was for Chocolate Babka Morning Buns by Michelle Lopez of Hummingbird High. This was an equally rewarding experience. The buns turned out both beautiful and delicious. They proved and baked beautifully in the pan, and clean up was at least as easy as the first time.
So, after several weeks of cooking and baking mishaps which have included explosions, cuts, burns and atrocious messes, I have to say I feel redeemed. Did this pan give me back my cooking mojo? I am not 100% sure, but something did!