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Cooking with Paula Wolfert's Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking


Richard Kilgore
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Anyone else up for cooking from Paula's new book, "Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking"? I know this is a book many of us have been waiting for, and several members helped with the recipe testing.

I plan on doing the "Red Beans with Chorizo, Blood Sausage, and Piment d'Esplette" soon.

What looks good to you?

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I have not used my tall La Chamba pot in quite a while, so I am soaking it in water today just in case, and I plan on following that with Paula's recommended milk treatment.

Here's a topic that may be of interest to anyone cooking along with us out of the book - one on curing clay pots that Paula started a few years ago: How to Cure Clay Pots.

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I got home from a lengthy trip to find my copy waiting for me! Hooray!

Today for dinner I cooked 3 recipes:

The absolute, hands-down winner of the evening, and rather a surprise as to the way it came together, was the Chicken with Red Wine Vinegar, Tomato, and Shallots.

I like chicken in almost any form, but had doubts about a sauce that began with a lot of vinegar, a touch of honey and tomato paste, all added to rich chicken broth. As the sauce was cooking down I continued to wonder whether it wouldn't be too...wild, I suppose,....strong, vinegary, whatever. I'm glad I followed the recipe precisely. The final dish was very well balanced, with a rich, complex, delicious sauce that we kept mopping up with whatever bread was available. This recipe is something I'd cook for company any time. It was also lovely. I took photos with every intention of posting them, but the photos didn't look good after all. Imagine a symphony of deep oranges, red and golds, with a sprinkling of green from the tarragon leaves over the top. Luscious!

For vegetables I tried the Summer Carrots cooked in a Clay Pot. First off, I should say that I didn't have a clay pot with a tight-fitting lid - most of my clay pots are open pots, and the tagine was occupied by the chicken above. So I used a ceramic casserole dish with a lid, and there may be an equipment issue. The other factor, however, is that I'm indifferent (at best) to carrots. This dish was sweet, with tender carrots, and should please anyone who likes carrots...but it didn't do a magical transformation for me.

I also did Slow-Cooked Sandpot Mushrooms. I think this dish requires really good mushrooms to show them off; I'd used standard Green Giant white mushrooms, and they tasted - well, like cooked Green Giant white mushrooms. The preparation is dead simple, and as has been noted here before, the simplest dishes rely on the best ingredients. I'll try this one again, possibly in one of my more porous clay pots, and certainly with better mushrooms. My husband is as indifferent to mushrooms as I am to carrots, but since he isn't cooking, he'll get these again.

I am surprised and delighted to find numerous bread recipes as well as dessert and egg recipes. I didn't try any of them today, but will do so after I get home again.

I can also attest that the chicken recipes that call for roasting them over a bed of salt are real winners. I helped test those, and I've adopted that method for my standard chicken-roasting technique.

Anyone else?

Edited by Smithy (log)

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Thanks for the detailed post, Smithy. Those are now three I definitely want to do.

What kind of clay pots are you all using for cooking from the book? I have a tagine, a 2 qt La Chamba casserole and a 3 qt La Chamba tall pot. I just ordered a 9 inch cazuela, and I'll probably order a larger La Chamba Casserole.

In the book Paula says you can cook 75% of the recipies with five types of pots. I think you can probably cook 40 - 50% with three clay pots: a casserole of about 4 1/2 qts., a cazuela, and a Chinese sand pot.

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My clay cooking vessels vary on size, glazed vs. unglazed, and lidded or unlidded. The tagine and the Romertopf have lids and no glaze; the casserole dishes and the bean pot are glazed and lidded; the Egyptian pots are unglazed with no lids. If a lid is needed on one of the Egyptian pots I'll use parchment paper, possibly supplemented by aluminum foil. I haven't sprung for a La Chamba yet. I've used Corningware on more than one occasion for the lidded casserole.

The Romertopf makes killer roast chicken. We had a lot of fun with that under the Paprika thread a few years ago. That's also about the time I learned that a lot of ceramic cookware can go on the stove top, despite the manufacturers' warnings.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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So far everything I've made has been outstanding. Unfortunately (grin), I've been able to do so with a tagine, a crock pot, a steel roaster, and enameled cast iron pot. It's going to be tricky to get my wife to let me buy a bunch of new clay pots.

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What all have you cooked, Peterh? Did you make any changes to the recipes?

I expect you can cook just about all the recipes in what you already have without buying anything new. A crockpot should cover a lot of Paula's recipes. That said, I have noticed that there are quite a few used Romertopf clay roasters on eBay right now at good prices. I've had mine for several years and mostly used it for pork loins and chicken, but they're good for soups, stews and other dishes, too.

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Thanks for asking. For a dinner party of 8:

Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Winter Squash and Toasted Pine Nuts (p. 144)

Bulgur Pilaf with Toasted Noodles (187)

Roasted Late Summer Vegetables from the Island of Corfu (235)

My Best Hummus (237)

Tuscan White Beans with Sage and Garlic (246)

My variations (intentional and not):

For all dishes I tried to make a double or 1.5x amount. I didn't use a calculator and was kind of sloppy with my proportions.

Tagine variations: My grocer didn't have enough shoulder arm chops, so I got some blade chops, too. The shoulder arm chops were a tad cheaper and the bone is simpler. Out of laziness, I didn't pull the meat out and cut it off the bones. I messed up and didn't realize I was out of honey, and I completely forgot about the pine nuts, even though I had them out and on the counter. Finally, I didn't make up La Kama spice mix, but tried to kind of put the right amount of its components in (except for cubeb berries, which I didn't have time to find/order). I probably didn't get the proportions right.

Hummus variation: As usual when I make hummus, I used canned chick peas instead of starting from dried. Drain, rinse, skin, and put in food processor. My wife likes to serve this with pita wedges toasted into chips. I prefer untoasted.

Beans: I used ordinary supermarket dried navy beans, soaked overnight and cooked in a crock pot style cooker. I'm not sure how they could have come out better.

Pilaf: made in enameled cast iron French Oven. I used some Minor's beef base to make the broth.

Vegetables: made in large, cast iron roasting pan.

My comments:

My Nose: Smell is an interesting sense. It's important to taste, but it gets overloaded quickly, and you don't notice how good everything smells. I went to the front door to greet some guests and got a shot of outside fresh air. Coming back inside, the aroma was amazing. I love cooking this food, but after standing over it, I think I miss out on some of the amazing flavor. This seems to happen when I cook from Wolfert cookbooks. Oh well. It's worth it, because I got so many raves from my guests.

Saffron: It's in the tagine. Does it really do much? Did I perhaps not use enough? Or is just supposed to make the dish wonderful without diners really knowing why?

Beans and Pilaf: Amazingly good. How the @#$*#% can dishes this simple and humble be this good? This is ridiculous!

Hummus: I like making home-made hummus. I am amazed that people pay money for prepared hummus. It's so easy to toss it together. I usually use a lot more olive oil, but her recipe specifies cooking water from the chick peas. I need to do that more. I'm so astonished by how good the Tuscan beans were that I need to try making hummus from dried chick peas.

Disappointment (tongue in cheek): I thought I cooked too much food. I was sure I had WAY too many beans. Why aren't there more leftovers? I probably need to figure out how to sneak in some new clay pots, too.

A few days later, I soaked and cooked the rest of my dried navy beans -- I wanted to do something with the rest of my fresh sage (and I didn't have any leftover beans). I forgot the garlic, so I threw in some minced garlic after the beans were already cooked. With some of them, I made "White beans with Tuna" (p. 247) plus a salad for dinner for my wife and me. I probably used more beans and certainly less tuna than called for. Wow. Out-*$@$#^-standing. I still have some beans in the refrigerator. Mmmmm.

Edited by Peterh (log)
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Thanks for the detailed report, Peter. Sounds like a delicious dinner!

Saffron: It's in the tagine. Does it really do much? Did I perhaps not use enough? Or is just supposed to make the dish wonderful without diners really knowing why?

I would be interested in knowing more about saffron and its effects, too. it has been fairly subtle when I have used it.

Hummus: I like making home-made hummus. I am amazed that people pay money for prepared hummus. It's so easy to toss it together. I usually use a lot more olive oil, but her recipe specifies cooking water from the chick peas. I need to do that more. I'm so astonished by how good the Tuscan beans were that I need to try making hummus from dried chick peas.

While I will use canned chickpeas when I am in a hurry or have decided on the spur of the moment to do a dish that needs them, soaking dried chickpeas over night makes a noticeable difference. It's worth taking the time to do it for me.

Paula's in New York this week taping for a Martha Stewart Show, which is expected to air on this coming Monday, November 9th. She'll pop in here soon after that.

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So far everything I've made has been outstanding. Unfortunately (grin), I've been able to do so with a tagine, a crock pot, a steel roaster, and enameled cast iron pot. It's going to be tricky to get my wife to let me buy a bunch of new clay pots.

Ah, Peterh, you seem to forget that Christmas is a mere 7 weeks away... :laugh:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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Here are a couple of images of dishes made from Paula's book. These were taken with her iphone and are used with permission.

Beef Daube

beef%20daube-1.JPG

Ramps, Asparagus and Italian Ham

IMG_0771.jpg

More to come!

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I have a cazuela soaking for its initial seasoning and have been jotting down some questions while reading through a bunch of recipes in the book this weekend and picking up some special ingredients.

First, I notice that some recipes call for an unglazed casserole and some call for a glazed one. While I realize most, if not all, of these recipes can be done successfully in a wide range of pots and pans, I wondered if there is a general principle for selecting one over the other - due to ingredients or cooking technique? Or is it just a matter of personal preference?

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I'm guessing that unglazed clay is the preferred cooking medium when it's desirable to remove some moisture. Unglazed clay will absorb some moisture so the food is easier to handle (koftes), cooks up crisper (breads), or cooks to a better texture (some of the bulgur recipes). Hmmm...something to think about when cooking in clay.

I recently seasoned a 3-qt earthenware casserole from Bram Clayware, which is listed in the Sources of the cookbook. http://www.bramcookware.com/ It's an Egyptian-made pot that goes from stovetop to oven. The seasoning process involves rubbing the entire pot with a clove of garlic. Wha-at?? I couldn't figure out any scientific basis for doing this, but I did it anyway. No sense in provoking the culinary gods (or goddesses).

I also seasoned a new Italian mattone. Did I need to buy any more clay pots to cook the recipes I like in this book? No. Did I buy some new clay pots anyway? Yes.

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A French or Egyptian or Moroccan grandmother's truc is to rub an unglazed or slip-glazed pot with a cut clove of garlic before each and every time the claypot

is

used. It is said to makes it stronger and kills surface bacteria.

Edited by Wolfert (log)

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

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"Pork Daube with Wild Mushrooms"

pork-and-mushroom-daube-002.jpg

I started working on this Friday evening for a Sunday dinner. Sure, it needs some forethought, but most of the work is quick and most of the time spent is simply marinating the meat and gently simmering it. So, Friday night I marinated the pork shoulder in a mixture of Gewrztraminer, onions, carrots, a spice sachet that included juniper, lavender and pepper, and an herb bundle. That’s all for day one. Like many a French stew the next step involved draining the meat and reserving the marinade. The meat is then browned and transferred to a clay pot along with browned onions and carrots. Lining the clay pot are several pieces of fresh pork skin. The skin here will add tremendous body to the resulting stew due to it’s very high level of unctuous collagen. The reserved marinade is simmered with dried porcini soaking water to make a fragrant flavorful braising liquid (the house just smells heavenly due to the dried porcini – simply amazing stuff). After topping the meat in the pot with the braising liquid, the whole thing goes in the oven for a couple of hours, then it is cooled until the next day.

pork-and-mushroom-daube-005.jpg

A few hours before dinner, I saute a bunch of cremini mushrooms and toss them in with the meat. Then it goes back in the oven for a few more hours until dinner time. The end result is deeply flavored with what I think of as “winter forest flavors” (dried and fresh mushrooms, juniper, thyme, pork, wine). The cooking juices where rich and delicious and the meat amazing. I served this with nothing more than homebaked French bread.

A couple of points to keep in mind if making this dish:

First, and this is true of any dish cooked in a clay pot probably, clay pots differ a lot in conductivity. I used a Colombian La Chamba pot not a Daubiere like Paula does. I ended up having to cook the dish a couple of extra hours at 250F to get to the proper tenderness. So plan accordingly and give yourself some more time than the recipe specifies.

Second, There is an error/omission in the recipe. For a Paula recipe this is unusual given how thorough she is, but it happens and she was very quick to reply to my email for a correction (thanks!). The dried porcini, after being soaked, drained and chopped are never used. I confirmed with Paula that these need to go in the pan in step 6 along with the onions and carrots.

Like all stews or daubes, this is so much better the next day in more ways than one. More on that later.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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The French say "it is wise to rub the duabiere inside and out with a clove of garlic. A magical and tasty hint."

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

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Great looking Pork Daube with wild Mushrooms, Elie.

Elie, Paula, anyone - regarding Elie's comment about the different conductivity of various clay pots, can you tell us more about which pots are likely to take more time or less time than others to cook the same dish? That would be really helpful to know.

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That looks fantastic but I am deathly allergic to mushrooms. The rest of it looks fine for me though. Any suggestions for something that can be substituted for mushrooms that will allow this to be made?

Maybe a nice firm tofu? HTH!

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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Elie, when you made the Daube, did you remove the meat from the liquid and store them separately? I recall that being in the instructions for the Oxtail Daube in Paula's SW France cookbook.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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That looks fantastic but I am deathly allergic to mushrooms. The rest of it looks fine for me though. Any suggestions for something that can be substituted for mushrooms that will allow this to be made?

A meaty vegetable of some sort might work. For some reason Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) come to mind (these will need much less cooking time than mushrooms though). Just brown them well and toss them in for the last thirty minutes or so. I do think the flavor will be much different though without any dried porcini liquid in there. You'll need something to flavor the liquid, maybe a few chopped and browned leeks? Again this will be a completely different dish, but it sounds good to me.

Edited by FoodMan (log)

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Elie, when you made the Daube, did you remove the meat from the liquid and store them separately? I recall that being in the instructions for the Oxtail Daube in Paula's SW France cookbook.

No, the recipe does not instruct you to do so and I did not. Storing the meat separately will make the liquid easier to defat though.

Edited by FoodMan (log)

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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