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 On a lighter note, if you were originally made out of a piece of corn, wouldn’t eating corn also be a cannibalistic act?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?

sopapillas
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.

Sinkers or Floaters… A Matzah Ball Soup Challenge!

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Matzah ball soup

Sinker and Floater Matzah Balls together.

As with all great cooking adventures you just can’t make one recipe of anything. Matzo Balls may seem simple but like a fine ballerina that make dancing look easy, a perfectly weighted and flavored matzah ball can be heaven. From selecting which classic brand of of Matzo meal to use or how to making a rich broth, each component makes for one of the best all time favorite comfort foods. Hard to imagine a good Jewish deli or attending a Passover Seder without a delish bowl of matzah ball soup. Here I have included three different tried and true recipes along with some of the ingredient and technique tips I discovered.

The big personal distinction in Matzah Ball soups seems to be what type of Matzah ball one prefers, light and fluffy floaters or satisfying and chewy sinkers. Broadway Panhandler in New York City had invited me to do a demonstration of making Matza Ball Soup in earthenware Chicken Pot from Colombia and it offered a great opportunity to have a large group express which type of Matzah balls was their favorite. I made two different types of Matzah balls for each public judge to try, all served in the same homemade Chicken broth (except for the vegetarian matzo balls). It was a very close between Nathalie’s Floaters and Rich’s Sinkers… out of 70 judges the winner by 4 votes was the floaters. So it was close to a tie and I recommend doing both types of matzah balls to do your own taste test, since both types are marvelous. This is also a very fun project for children too. I included a recipe for vegetarian Matzah balls, which is really satisfying option in a vegetable broth.

Nathalie’s Floating Matzo Balls

Type: Floaters

Flavor: Parsley, Onion powder

Lightening agent: Seltzer

Matzoh Brand: Streits

Combine

4 eggs, beaten

¼ cup chicken fat

¼ cup Seltzer

1 Tbl chopped fresh parsley

2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp onion powder

1 cup matzo meal

Refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll into eight or nine 2″ tight balls and drop into boiling UNsalted water and cook for 45 minutes. Simmer in chicken soup before serving.

Rich’s Flavorful Matzo Balls

Special thanks to Rich for sharing his Matzo Ball making tips and recipe. He has perfected some of the most tasty Matzo Balls I have ever enjoyed!

Type: Sinkers

Flavor: Parsley, Onion powder, Chicken Stock

Matzoh Brand: Streits

Combine

4 eggs, beaten

¼ cup chicken fat

¼ cup Chicken Broth

1 Tbl chopped fresh parsley

2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp onion powder

1 cup matzo meal

Refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll into eight or nine 2″ tight balls and drop into boiling UNsalted water and cook for 45 minutes. Simmer in chicken soup before serving.

Vegetarian Matzo Balls

Type: Sinkers

Flavor: Dill, Onion

Matzoh Brand: Manischewitz

Combine

4 eggs, beaten

¼ cup Olive Oil

¼ cup Vegetarian Broth (vegeta)

1 Tbl chopped fresh dill

1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

1 T minced onion

1 cup matzo meal

Refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll into eight or nine 2″ tight balls and drop into boiling UNsalted water and cook for 45 minutes. Simmer in chicken soup before serving.

I did try the recipe found on the web for the classic Second Ave Matzah Ball Soup and I found all three of the above recipes far superior.

Tip:

1. Rendered your own Chicken fat. I collected fat from chickens I prepared by saving the scraps in the freezer just to use for this purpose. It is a hard to beat flavor enhancer.

2. Make the chicken broth from scratch and you will have a world class Matzah Ball experience.

3. Use the freshest Matzah meal you can find. I like buying my Matzah in Jewish neighborhoods delis in Brooklyn right particularly around Passover and freezing a couple of extra boxes.

A cute Matzah Video about 20 things to do with Matzah Bread after Passover… I suggest a 21st thing to do… grind fine or coarse and make some Matzah Balls!

A post-Passover musical greeting!
Song composed by William Levin
Lyrics by William Levin and Michelle Citrin
Performed by Michelle Citrin and William Levin.

Paula Wolfert’s Foods of Morocco Prune & Almond Chicken Tagine

food of morocco


Indonesian Tagine using Paula Wolfert’s Chicken Prune and Almond Recipe

Found this very unusual earthenware etched tagine in Boulder Colorado at a Fair Trade Store. It is from the island of Lombok in Indonesia. When I purchased it I was given very little information so hopefully this will be helpful for others who are considering one of these lovely tagines.

The finish on this tagine was nicely burnished but felt like an oil had been applied so I washed it thoroughly and placed milk in the bowl and slowly seasoned for an hour at 325 degrees. After washing it again (no soap) I let it dry thoroughly. Being terrible spoiled by my other earthenware from Chamba, Colombia (a clay comal pictured here where I toasted almonds) , I wanted to be able to use this Lombok tagine on the gas stove top as well as the oven.


Indonesian Clay Tagine on Gas Stove Top

I didn’t have a defuser and decided to go for the direct flame feeling that this clay cooking pot seemed highly fired enough, didn’t have any glaze and was thick and sturdy. Carefully I heating the pot with a little oil on very low flame, preparing to start braising chicken for making Paula Wolfert’s delicious prune and almond chicken dish from her extensive new Foods of Morocco cookbook. Gradually I raised the heat, building it up to a low high heat. It handled the flame very well and evenly. After such a successful beginning I ended up cooking the whole dish on the stove top for an hour and didn’t even put it in the oven. A great first adventure for this beautiful Indonesian tagine. This tagine is imported by and available at Ten Thousand Villages in the US and Canada through their supportive Fair Trade work with Lombok Pottery Cooperative.

Ajiaco Colombian Chicken and Potato Soup

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Chamba Clay Cookware.com

 

Ajiaco soup made in a Chamba clay pot

Columbians love soups, every region with its various natural resources has a unique comfort food type of soup. Ajiaco is a delicious classic you would find in the country’s capital city Bogota. It is very simple to make, wonderfully addictive but requires at least one special ingredient to separate it out from most chicken and potato soups, it the herb Guascas. A delightful kind of citrus herb, that grows like a weed, and is sometime called the Valient Soldier!  You can buy it online* or if you are in a Columbian neighborhood any where in the world ask for it in the local stores and delis. They will usually have it.  I also recommend using all the garnishes when serving your soup. The capers, cilantro and cream really offer a fabulous taste treat.

In this picture the Ajiaco is served with the garnishes, rice and some Farmers Cheese Fritters. A very filling meal.

Ajiaco Chicken, Potato, Corn traditional Colombian Soup

2 chicken breasts and 3 large legs – skin removed

3 large cloves of garlic chopped

1 large onion chopped

3 -4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

12 sm yellow potatoes – I like the finger potoatos

3 medium yukon gold cut up in one inch cubes

8 small red potatoes cut in half

Chopped bunch of cilantro plus 1/4 cup of leaves for garnish

8 T of dried Guascas

2 T of salt

1 T of Pepper

3 Ears of Corn cut in wheels

10 Cups of a Chicken Broth.

1 Cup of Sour Cream or Mexican Crema if available.

1 Avocado Sliced

1 cut up lime

1/8 cup of capers

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. A classic La Chamba, Colombian clay pot would be idea but any dutch oven or large soup pot will work. Saute the chopped onion and garlic until golden. Remove the onions and save to the side. Next saute and cook the in the same oil/liquid as the onions.  When cooked through re add the cooked onion mixture, chicken broth, spices and herbs. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for about 20 mins. Add the cut up potatoes simmer for about 40 min. Add in the wheels of corn. Colombian corn would be added earlier since the traditional corn from this are for this dish would have larger slightly tougher kennels than the tender yellow typically found in the US. Cook the corn in the broth for about 12 – 15 min.

Serve the soup with bowls of the condiments, capers, sour cream, cilantro leaves and the sliced avocado.

Bowl of Ajiaco Columbian Soup in a clay bowl from Colombia

Yummy!!!

* Online Source for Guascas

http://www.amigofoods.com/kigu10gr.html   cool website for all kinds of special ingredients.

Here is a classic bowl of Ajiaco I was served in Bogota, Colombia. It looks way different than the way I make Ajiaco, more potato and less brothy. Another highly recommended way to make ajiaco. Ajiaco is often served in a clay Chamba bowl. This bowl design originated over 2000 years ago and still being produced in the same region.

Classic Ajiaco served in Bogota, Colombia

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