Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking: Traditional and Modern Recipes
I’m not quite sure how it happened that I became a clay pot “junkie.” At age nineteen I bought my fi rst clay pot, a beautiful, potbellied tripière, used for cooking tripe. I had as yet no idea what tripe was and chose the vessel solely for its looks. Th us began a collection that grew exponentially through the years— enlarged by my travels and culinary adventures. Perhaps it was the diff erent shapes and sizes, the colors and glazes, the myriad variations on primal shapes that att racted me. Or perhaps it was just that earthenware produced such great-tasting food.
And that’s where I begin this book, by asserting a simple truth: Most food—and Mediterranean food in particular—tastes bett er cooked in clay. Since taste is largely subjective, it’s hard to prove my claim scientifi cally, but plenty of evidence abounds. Ever since I started studying Mediterranean cuisines fifty years ago, I heard cooks from the south of France to Morocco sing the praises of clay pots and how they enhanced the local food. Furthermore, whenever I conduct a comparison in my classes of slow-cooked dishes prepared in clay and in metal of any sort, clay wins out.
This is true for many reasons, some obvious, others not. Th ink of the diff erence in taste between organically grown fruits and vegetables and typical supermarket agribusiness produce. The former always taste bett er. Similarly, unglazed clay vessels are organic since clay is a form of earth. Food cooked in them acquires a natural taste. When I taste heirloom beans cooked in a clay pot on top of the stove, I find a special sweetness in them. Just as food cooked in a wood-fi red oven acquires the taste and aroma of wood, so food cooked in an unglazed clay pot acquires a taste and aroma I defi ne as “earthy.”
There’s also the accumulation of flavors that build when a particular dish is cooked over and over in the same porous, unglazed clay pot. I have discovered that the more I use such a dedicated pot, the deeper and more delicious the food cooked in it tastes.
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