HOMEMADE CERAMIC BAKEWARE
Pottery is among the oldest materials used for making cookware. Some archaeologists date its use back to 20,000 B.C., and even though we have developed new metal, glass and (somewhat ironically) space-age ceramic cookware, there is still a place in every kitchen for traditional pottery bakeware.
Any casserole or pie dish can be made with the right clay body, and there are even a few bodies that will take a direct flame on the stovetop. Here is some bakeware you might not have thought of, along with some recipes.
This is the simplest of all bakeware. A garlic roaster can be made from unglazed (or glazed) stoneware or even terracotta. The basic form is a platter with a domed lid on it. Simply make a plate or round slab with a lip. On the wheel, or using a slump mold, make a deep bowl – one with very tall walls – that will fit upside down inside the lip of the plate. You can trim the bowl so that it's round on the bottom and it is recommended to add a handle. Make a hole in the top to allow steam to escape. Glazing isn't strictly necessary, but glazing the bottom piece will make cleanup easier.
Cut the top off one head of garlic and pour oil over the exposed cloves. Place garlic inside of the roaster and place in a cold oven (pottery bakeware should always either be pre-heated with the oven or placed in a cold oven). Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, or until the garlic is soft. Getting the garlic out of the skin is as easy as squeezing the head like a tube of toothpaste.
UPRIGHT CHICKEN ROASTER
Beer-can chicken, the barbecue favorite, can be made any time – without putting an aluminum can covered in commercial dyes inside of your dinner. Start by throwing a large (10-12 inch) platter with a tall rim, but leave a mound of clay in the center. Once your platter is shaped, open the mound in the center and raise the walls into a cylinder. The cylinder should be about the same size as a pint can, for ease of fitting inside of a chicken.
Preheat dish in oven to 400-425 degrees. Fill the outer dish with carrots, onions, celery and garlic (optional: add root vegetables), add fresh rosemary, salt and pepper and fill the center cylinder with a dry white wine. Place the chicken (seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme) upright on the cylinder. Bake in the oven until done.
Tajine is the name of both a Moroccan dish and the pottery vessel used to cook it in. The pot is very similar to the garlic roaster above except for a few minor differences. First: the tajine is much larger – 10 or more inches in diameter. Second: the top should be conical, not domed. And finally, there should be no hole in the top; the purpose of a tajine is to trap all of the steam from cooking. Tajine pots are also often covered in intricate decoration.
Tajine is not just one dish, it's an entire category of Moroccan cooking. Searching for authentic tajine recipes will serve you better than a single recipe given here, but if you are looking to be creative, here are some general suggestions:
- Unlike other slow-cooking processes, meat and vegetables are added to the tajine at the same time. Tajine is traditionally cooked over coals or a low fire, but can be cooked in the oven (check your clay to see if it is fit for oven use or direct heat use).
- Moroccan dishes often fuse the sweet and savory, so a dish seasoned with salt, pepper, turmeric, saffron and cinnamon and topped with a dried fruit compote would be very traditional.
- Moroccan food rarely (if ever) contains pork or alcohol.
GENERAL TIPS FOR USING POTTERY BAKEWARE
- Glazed pottery bakeware is ready to use right away.
- Unglazed pottery bakeware may need to be seasoned before use, and then soaked in water for 15-20 minutes before each use.
- To season: soak pot in water overnight. In the morning, remove the pot and rub it with vegetable oil or olive oil and then bake in a 300-degree oven for 2 hours.
- Never use soap to wash an unglazed pottery baking dish. Use vinegar or baking soda instead, Soap can ruin the seasoning.
- Always bring the temperature of your baking dishes up gradually and cool them down gradually too. Heating or cooling too quickly will lead to cracks.
- Always heat evenly. Even if your clay body is safe for direct heat, it should still be heated slowly and evenly.