What Can I Make In A Clay Pot?
I just got a beeeeautiful unglazed clay pot from my man's mother. She had it for years when she lived in Portugal, and has not used it lately so she was happy to give it to me when I expressed an interest in using it took cook.
But.. I don't know what to make with it!
I'd love some recipe suggestions on what to cook in this thing. Also, are there any tips I should know? I thought I read that soaking it before throwing it in an oven was mandatory, but I can't recall where I read this direction and I'd love to know if that it is even necessary.
No, it was a funny name, and I'm not gonna remember it ever, so I won't even try.
All I know is, it was made in a domed, hinged pot. I don't know how else to describe it. There was a sauce that was made, and then things (and I can't remember what) were layered with the sauce and fish and squid and shrimp in the pot, which was closed and then "just" cooked.
If anyone is interested, I have attempted one thing in the clay pot so far and it was awesome. I got the recipe out of "Portuguese Homestyle Cooking"; the answer to my question was in my kitchen the whole time!
It is a Portuguese recipe, specifically Azorean. I made it for my inlaws to enjoy, who hail from there, as a "thank you" for the gift of the pot :) I'll transcribe the recipe directly from the book:
Beef Rump or Alcatra
The Azorean Portuguese from the island of Terceira are famous for this unique dish. Simply seasoned with allspice, pepper, salt, and bayleaf, it is traditionally served on the Feast of the Holy Ghost, but can be served on other occasions as well. Cooked in red wine, the meat takes on a deep mahogany color. Other Azorean islands have versions of this popular meal. Some cooks use white wine for a lighter color. Served with rice as a separate course after the Soup of the Holy Ghost, it is prepared in a clay pot. The traditional pot is somewhat like an inverted lampshade in shape. Similar deep, unglazed clay bakers may be found at kitchen specialty shops. New clay pots must be seasoned; see the Note following this recipe. Unglazed clay pots must be soaked before each use and placed in a cold oven to prevent cracking.
1 presoaked unglazed 4-quart red-clay pot
1 stick soft butter
3 large onions, thinly sliced
1/2 pound slab bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cloves garlic, mashed
2 bay leaves
1 5-pound rump or chuck roast, bone-in, cut into 4-inch pieces
1 pound shin bone (if using rump roast)
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons firm butter, cut into pieces
1 cup water
4 to 6 cups medium-bodied red or white wine
1. Generously grease the interior of the pot with soft butter.
2. Place half the onions in the bottom of the pot followed by half of the bacon, garlic, and 1 bayleaf. Add the meat, including the bone from the roast or shin bone, followed by the second bay leaf, the garlic, and remaining bacon. End with the remaining onions. Scatter the allspice and peppercorns over the top along with the walt. Dot the top with the pieces of cold butter.
3. Mix the water with 1 cup of the wine. Pour over the ingredients followed by enough additional wine to cover everything by 1 inch.
4. Place the pot in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 400 degrees F. When the liquid begins to boil, reduce the temperature to 300 degrees. Cover the pot with foil and cook, without turning the ingredients, until tender, about 3 to 3.5 hours more.
5. Turn off the heat. Uncover the pot and remove some of the broth for cooking rice. Leave the uncovered pot in the oven just until the oven heat has dissipated. The top will brown a litle. Serve meat with rice cooked in broth.
Notes: Lucia Costa, who learned to prepare this dish as a young girl in Terceira, says long slow cooking is necessary to this dish.
A new, unglazed clay pot needs to be seasoned to avoid passing an earthy flavor to food. To season, fill the pot with water and add several cabbage or collard leaves and some onion peelings. Then place the pot on a flame-proof diffuser over medium heat. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 hours and then drain.
When you want to cook in the pot, immerse it in water and soak for about 24 hours. Then proceed with the recipe by generously greasing the interior with butter.
I had one I bought for a dollar in a thrift store until it broke - I enjoyed it.
Yes, soak both top and bottom before using. The clay absorbs water.
Don't wash with detergent - only very gentle soap and rinse very well. The clay absorbs detergent - ick.
Don't crank oven up beyond 400 - don't want to stress the ceramic.
Never shock it with abrupt changes of temp.
When removing from the oven, place on wood, not anything cold - it can crack.
Never put water into hot pot - it can crack.
Soak hot water in it when it's cooled to loosen cooked on food.
Don't add a lot of liquid to what you are cooking in it - you'll steam rather than bake your food.
Never use on the stovetop burners - just in the oven.
I used mine to make chickens and stews - lamb and beef. I would place chunked carrots, garlic, potatoes, celery, and red & green bell peps with the meat.
When your food is cooked, you can remove the pot from the oven - pour off the liquid, remove the fat and make a roux - to thicken - flour/oil or fat 1:2 - (someone recently said you can just toast flour without the fat and then use it to thicken a gravy - more healthy!)fry roux and add liquid from pot whisk and simmer until thickened and pour back over the meat and veg.
I posted some suggestions about Asian-style "clay pot rice" w/ sausage a while back. I've only ever seen it done on a gas stove-top but perhaps it could be adapted for oven, if your dish is not range-friendly.
For oven-baked dishes, try brodetto. It's typically made of small, whole merluzzo fish (minus the head & tail) baked in a lot of tomato sauce, topped with an extra splash of olive oil & parsley. My Italian landlady used to make this for me in a shallow clay dish. We were on the Adriatic coast, in Abruzzo province, and the tomato sauce came from beer bottles in her garden shed!
That's right, Kare. Viet fish in claypot is yummy and not difficult at all to whip up at home. Here's the recipe I use:
- 4 shallots
- 2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 450 g/1 lb firm thick white fish filets (catfish is ideal)
- 3 tablespoons powdered (caster) sugar
- 4 tablespoons fish sauce (nuoc mam)
1. Heat sugar in a small, heavy-based pan over low heat, stirring constantly, until it has melted and turned to a light golden caramel. Remover from heat and carefully stir in nuoc mam. Return to heat and stir for a couple of minutes until caramel dissolves.
2. Remove caramel from the heat again and stir in shallots and chillies with some black pepper. Leave to cool.
3. Lay filets in a claypot and pour caramel sauce over fish. Cover and cook over low heat for 20-30 mins. or until fish flakes easily.
In your quest for recipes, you might keep in mind that there are two types of "clay pots"...one basically Italian (usually unglazed terra cotta) and Asian (brown glaze on the inside). I don't believe it would be safe to cook on stovetop with the Italian, but the Asian is OK over low flame (makes crispy rice clay pot).
Roasts and stews. Chickens roast to perfection. I also use mine for bread.
The instructions I got ages ago were to soak top and bottom for at least 15 minutes and put it in a cold oven set to a very high temperature. Don't peak! Let the steam be contained in the pot and work its magic — altho removing the top for browning in the last 15 minutes is a good idea.
That said, mine has, over the years, thoroughly "glazed" itself with the juices of a thousand meals despite vigorous scrubbing after every use. (Tip: stick to hot water and a good abrasive mesh scrubber, no soap whose flavor will be retained by the terra cotta). I have written to Rumptoffer to ask how that effects the process and never gotten a response.