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Clay pot cooking vs. metal pots


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#1 rancho_gordo

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 03:35 PM

Paula, thanks to you I have a new monkey on my back- cooking in clay! Mostly bean pots but I have three tagines and a few other odds and ends to keep the bean pots company.

One interesting thing I've noted is that the tagine recipes really need the amounts of liquid adjusted when cooking in clay, but the more Euro-based recipes seem fine. I just made the braised leeks from Slow Med last night in a glazed Italian pot on the stove and they were just slightly wetter than when I made them in an enameled cast iron pot, and it could have been juicier onions or fresher leeks that accounted for that.

Do you think it's the clay or maybe the way they are fired? The odd thing is the tagines are unglazed yet they produce so much liquid.

Anyway, I can't wait for your next book on clay cooking.
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#2 Wolfert

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 03:44 PM

Paula, thanks to you I have a new monkey on my back- cooking in clay! Mostly bean pots but I have three tagines and a few other odds and ends to keep the bean pots company.

One interesting thing I've noted is that the tagine recipes really need the amounts of liquid adjusted when cooking in clay, but the more Euro-based recipes seem fine. I just made the braised leeks from Slow Med last night in a glazed Italian pot on the stove and they were just slightly wetter than when I made them in an enameled cast iron pot, and it could have been juicier onions or fresher leeks that accounted for that.

Do you think it's the clay or maybe the way they are fired? The odd thing is the tagines are unglazed yet they produce so much liquid.

Anyway, I can't wait for your next book on clay cooking.

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Hi there,

I'm nowhere near ready to answer that question. Maybe someone reading this can help.
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#3 Smithy

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 10:15 AM

I've been seeing interesting differences in my clay pots - not only vs. metal, but also glazed vs. unglazed, and possibly even Egyptian vs. Moroccan. It's a fascinating line of inquiry, and I thank Paula for opening up this world to me. My question at the moment is, how do you decide whether to cook something in a glazed or an unglazed pot? Which is more common in the southwest of France? Or, perhaps, are pots of a particular shape routinely glazed or left unglazed, so that the finish isn't the determining factor?

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#4 Wolfert

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 11:06 AM

There are many ways for home cooks to use clay pots. Most any recipe can be adapted to clay pot cookery so long as the pot has the right shape and size and can hold and distribute slow even heat. There is also the pleasure of "coddling" food in clay, a pleasure both sensual and gustatory.

Glazed stoneware pots can be substituted for nearly any type of cooking vessel, and they need less liquid than metal ones. ,

Soaked unglazed pots such as the romertopf have unique properties by which food is steamed in its own moisture.

Some unglazed pots provide a special flavor that only clay can convey such as the mica-rich American Indian beanpots and the southern Moroccan tagines.a special "distinctive thumb print taste" from hand-crafted clay that writers now fashionably call gout de terroir -- the taste of the earth.

Edited by Wolfert, 16 November 2005 - 11:14 AM.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#5 chefzadi

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 04:41 PM

Paula, thanks to you I have a new monkey on my back- cooking in clay! Mostly bean pots but I have three tagines and a few other odds and ends to keep the bean pots company.

One interesting thing I've noted is that the tagine recipes really need the amounts of liquid adjusted when cooking in clay, but the more Euro-based recipes seem fine. I just made the braised leeks from Slow Med last night in a glazed Italian pot on the stove and they were just slightly wetter than when I made them in an enameled cast iron pot, and it could have been juicier onions or fresher leeks that accounted for that.

Do you think it's the clay or maybe the way they are fired? The odd thing is the tagines are unglazed yet they produce so much liquid.

Anyway, I can't wait for your next book on clay cooking.

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Again I don't have time to get into it too much.

But a tagine is designed for an airtight lid, little/no moisture loss. How tight was the seal on your clay vessel?

You're correct on your second point as well. Vegetables as well as meat give off varying amounts of liquid. I bought chicken legs from this one butcher and the amount of water that came was SHOCKING. :biggrin:
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#6 jayt90

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 06:14 PM

One method I have always wanted to try is to seal a pot or casserole lid with dough, so that the dish can be opened at the table and produce a whiff of steam, scents, and fragrances.

Is this practical? Is there a risk of cracking a clay pot? Or a difficult clean up? I wonder if the results are worth the effort? And what dishes would be a good starter?.

#7 Mottmott

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 09:12 AM

About how long do we wait for the clay cookery book? I'm really looking forward to that one.

I've long enjoyed your earlier books and just received my copy of SMK and plan to heat my house with it this winter. :wink: Are any of those recipes improved by using clay vessels, particularly the unglazed?
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#8 moosnsqrl

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 11:21 AM

First, I just noticed this lovely sentence in a digest from the Trib and thought this crowd would appreciate it:

"Off the vine, winter squash look like some kind of exotic rustic pottery, with rich colors and textures that give them the appearance of having been elaborately carved and colored." -- Russ Parson, LA Time Staff Writer

OK, back to where you were and I joined. I have for years used a simple flour and water paste to seal around the edges of a cooking vessel (of just about any material) for chicken (with the proverbial 40 cloves of garlic, or not). I think I borrowed this technique from my French 'mother' and it works to good effect for moisture, flavor and that ooh, aah sensation at serving time.
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#9 Wolfert

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 02:43 PM

About how long do we wait for the clay cookery book? I'm really looking forward to that one.

I've long enjoyed your earlier books and just received my copy of SMK and plan to heat my house with it this winter. :wink:  Are any of those recipes improved by using clay vessels, particularly the unglazed?

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It may be a while before the book is finished; I'm deep into it, and hope to come up with a definitive work, so time is not of tthe essence. I've been recommending the use of clay cooking vessels in all my books going back to Couscous.

Up to now I've been suggesting them as an alternative, because most of my readers were invested in glazed cast-iron. In the slow Mediterranean book I started making a point of recommending clay.

As for unglazed pots, I use two different kinds, romertopfs and black chambas. Each has its own purpose; I've found there're not interchangeable. Only the romertopf is soaked in water before using. The chamba you use in place of a cocotte.
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#10 Wolfert

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 02:46 PM

One method I have always wanted to try is to seal a pot or casserole lid with dough, so that the dish can be opened at the table and produce a whiff of steam, scents, and fragrances.

Is this practical? Is there a risk of cracking a clay pot? Or a difficult clean up? I wonder if the results are worth the effort? And what dishes would be a good starter?.

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It's easy to seal a glazed pot or an enameled casserole with a ribbon of flour and water. If you use a totally unglazed pot that can be dangerous as it might well crack.

One egulleteer wrote in that he broke his sand pot trying to open the seal.

I can only imagine that he put the ribbon of paste in such a way that it stuck to the unglazed part of the pot and wouldn't slip off. As to clean-up, it is a bit of a bother, but in my view well worth the trouble. And the dining room drama with attendant aromas is a treat for cook and family alike.
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.