Isn't it lovely? Almost as lovely as my shiny new 6-quart enameled Dutch oven!
Enter, Bessie LeRouge:
I'nt she perty?
Bessie arrived just days ago, at a healthy 13.4 lbs., and already I have dreams of her future. Ah, I can almost taste it: the beef bourguignon braising, crusty bread baking, doughnut deep-frying, and hearty stew simmering... what fun we'll have together!
But for now, baby-steps. She's resting now, after the exertion of helping me fry up that orange-chicken. In fact, while she's asleep...
*lowers voice to a whisper*
She's a Lodge brand enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. I did a fair amount of research before deciding what to get, and as far as I can see there are only a few downsides Bessie has to the insanely-more-expensive Le Creuset. Besides the fancy show-off name, Le Crueuset's Dutch ovens have a sharper corner between the bottom and the sides, which would help when braising meat, among other things. The Lodge's bottom edges are rounded pretty significantly, which may prove to be awkward from time-to-time.
Also, the Lodge comes with (although so do a lot of the more expensive ovens) a plastic knob on top that's only oven-proof up to 400f. This is easily fixed with either a metal drawer-pull from a hardware store, or a metal replacement knob offered by Le Creuset (and fits the Lodge just fine, aside from having the logo laser etched on it). Either option will make the Lodge oven-proof to any temp., just as a Dutch oven should be.
I've heard stories of the enamel chipping (though only on the outside, so it would be an aesthetic issue), but have read just as many reviews saying that the Lodge's enamel holds up just as well as the more expensive ones. I suppose this has a lot to do with how you handle it, and what kind of wear-and-tear is being put on it. I suggest if you plan to be rough with a Dutch oven to get one that's bare cast-iron instead of enameled.
Speaking of which, here are some of the reasons I chose enameled over bare:
A. I wouldn't have to season it, ever, and I'm a lazy.
B. If I were to make a sauce, or jam, or whatever, the sides would be easier to scrape down
C. having a lighter colored interior makes it easier to see the food - for instance, if you're making caramel (which you probably wouldn't do on bare cast iron, either) and you're waiting for the sugar to turn golden, you're not going to see it in a black-bottomed pan.
and D. I've heard little to no downsides with things like braising, developing a good fond, etc. in comparison with cast-iron
Oh, and did I mention it's pretty? Very important.
Now, I know you all keep scrolling up to look at the Orange Chicken (or scrolling down to see when I get to the good bits of this post), so I'll bore you no longer.
I found the recipe, and followed the instructions of, Local Kitchen, but the recipe originated at http://blogchef.net/. I didn't make any changes, so I'll just leave you with the links - http://blogchef.net/orange-chicken-recipe/ or http://localkitchenblog.com/2011/03/27/chinese-orange-chicken/ - you can copy/paste if the hyperlink doesn't work for you.
Pretty much all the ingredients are things you probably already have on hand, and you don't need any special equipment (I used my new Dutch oven to do the frying in, and a spider-strainer to fish out the chicken from the oil, but a deep sauté pan and a slotted spoon would work just fine). It's such an easy recipe to follow, and the results are pretty amazing. The only change The Boyfriend and I could think of was to use a little less orange zest - the recipe calls for the zest of an entire orange, which, when you have a small-grapefruit sized navel orange, is a little much. Adjust as you feel necessary, but it was still delicious.