How to Use Portuguese Clay Pots for Cooking

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Some of the tastiest, most succulent foods come from cooking in a clay pot. The clay pot method was used around the Mediterranean region as far back as Roman times and each country claims to have been the first to serve up a haunch of lamb from this technique. Regardless, the clay pot is a boon to any cook’s kitchen. In this project we will discuss the methodology behind the process and try out a fool-proof recipe.

Things You'll Need

  • Clay pot, unglazed, with lid
  • Water
  • 3 pounds of beef chuck
  • 8 Whole red potatoes
  • 2 Spanish onions studded with cloves
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup of Madeira wine

Soak your clay pot in cold water for half an hour the first time you use it. After the first use, you can soak it for 15 to 20 minutes. That is sufficient time to absorb enough moisture. The clay absorbs moisture and converts it to steam during the cooking process. It is this steam that allows you to cook a less tender cut of meat without oils.

Add beef, potatoes, onions and garlic. Slosh over a half cup of wine for flavor and place the lid on the pot, which is now ready for the oven. Cook the beef roast at a higher temperature than with a normal dry heat roast. Set the oven to 375 degrees. The damp interior walls of the pot diffuse the heat and release steam directly into the ingredients.

Cook for about 75 minutes. Do not lift the lid and release any of the steam. At the end of the regular cooking time, remove the clay pot from the oven and release the top. Remove the roast and potatoes to a warming platter, cover and rest for 15 minutes to allow the meat to absorb juices and firm up. Pour the liquid in the bottom of the pot into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add flour thickening for a savory gravy to serve over the meat and potatoes.

Clean the cooled clay pot by rubbing coarse-grained salt over the inside surface. Never use detergents because they will absorb into the porous pot and be released during subsequent cooking sessions.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remember that the pot will only steam as long as it has water to release from the inside walls. Caution should be taken not to allow the pot to dry out through an excessively long cooking time. Cooks avoid cooking fish in the same pot that they use for other foods because the walls absorb odors easily.

References

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