Posole in a Clay Casuela

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Beef pozole with condiments

Pozole is a classic Mexican comfort food dating back to Pre-Colombian times. The word Pozole comes from the Natualtl word, Pozolli, meaning foamy and refers to a stew made of maize.
Pozolli was believed to have been consumed during sacred ceremonies as offerings. Pre-Colombian pozole did focus on Maize being the ritualistic ingredient, honoring the belief that man was created from masa, ground corn. The large corn kernels, also known as hominy were particularly valued. It is believed in some interpretations of ancient texts that Pozole was eaten during these scared rituals and made with sacrificial human meat. Not the most appetizing of thoughts but it was a brutal time in Pre-Colombian history when Cannibalism was a religious practiced of domination and respect. On a lighter note, if you were originally made out of a piece of corn, wouldn’t eating corn also be a cannibalistic act?

A Codex image of a ancient pozole cooking clay pot!

A Codex image of a ancient pozole cooking clay pot!

This Codex drawing portrays pozolli being cooked or stored in a Pre-Colombian clay pot. Mexico Cooks.

Modern Pozole is traditionally made in many regions of Mexico and the South West US with pork (particularly a pig head), turkey, beef, chicken, seafood or vegetables offering I wide variety of options and regional specialization. Here is one recipe I have experimented with and find offers a very satisfying and delicious pozole. Enjoy!

Sopapillas Anyone? Can you fry in a clay cazuela?

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Nathalie Herling&#039s Sopapillas

Nathalie Herling’s sopapillas.

I am often asked, “Can you frying in a clay pot?” and it’s a complicated answer. Not all stove top safe, clay pots handle high heat and boiling oil to high temperatures well.
Lots of post conquest Mexican foods are fried in vegetable oil or pork lard at high heats so decided to tested one of my Mexico City purchased cazuelas. I selected this pot particularly for its thin walls and light glaze on the inner surface because it would be a bit more resistant to absorbing the oil into the clay walls. This clay pot did the job well with it being able to reach high heats… but did absorb a lot of oil into the clay and the frying process changed the actual coloring of the clay pot permanently which is an interesting but a predictable outcome.*

Flying sopapillas in a clay cazuela

Flying sopapillas in a clay cazuela.

Side by side I compared a clay cazuela to oil frying in a metal pan and the cazuela made as fine a fried sopapilla using the same batter. I did this to see if I noticed any difference in the quality or speed of cooking of oil in metal or clay. I had the same results from both! Of course I always think everything is better tasting cooked in a clay pot and it sure looked prettier and authentic during the preparation. You be the judge and enjoy some yummy sopapillas while you are at it.

Sopapilla recipe and step by step instructions below.

Fried bread sopapillas coated in powder sugar

Powder sugar coated sopapilla.

* More notes on cooking with deep frying oil in a Mexican cazuela clay pot.
If you decide to cook with a lot of oil in a clay pot you will want to carefully select your pot. If this Mexican cazuela had not been glazed on the inside I would have not used this pot to fry. I found the light glaze was a bit light for frying and made me anxious while first using it over the high gas flame. I only filled the 5 inch tall cazuela with 1.5 to 2 inches of oil which was sufficient for frying the sopapillas just perfectly at a good high heat. I usually do not use much soap when washing out my clay pots but in this case used a little soap when cleaning particularly on the unglazed bottom of the pan to make sure oil was not remaining on the bottom next time I cooked with the pot. The pot now has a more dense feeling over all and is a lot slicker for cooking other items so it has been seasoned with oil more than most of the clay cookware I use. Every clay pot can have a special use due to the way you season and treat that vessel. This pot is now one I use for cooking items that like oil for brazing and when I fry tortillas, potatoes and other oil related cooking. Looking forward to trying other clay pots with oil to test their properties and will keep you posted. Please share your experiences!

TIPS:  Don’t make your sopapillas too thin, and put them in pre-heated oil. Start flipping them as soon as you put them in the oil. They will puff up higher. I also store extra dough in the fridge for up to a week and make sopapillas whenever the mood strikes.

Please share your favorite recipes and experience cooking with clay cookware from around the world.