Thursday, March 09, 2006

Clay Pot Chicken

Several years ago my niece gave me a Romertopf Clay Baker for Christmas. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. Sure I'd heard of clay pot cooking, but I never, ever thought of actually buying one. But, I thought, what the heck - it's a low-fat, healthy way of cooking, so why not give it a try. After making my first chicken in it, I've never roasted chicken any other way. As you can see, my clay pot has been used a bunch. In all honesty, chicken is the only thing I make in it even though the recipe brochure that came with it claims you can bake a cake in one. I doubt if a chicken-flavored chocolate cake would be all that yummy.

The first time I used the pot the lid cracked (see^^). I was devastated. We really liked that chicken! So I contacted the company and learned that I couldn't get just a replacement lid and would have to buy the whole thing brand new. I thought, forget that - I didn't want the damn thing to begin with! So I just used it with the cracked lid and I haven't noticed any difference in the performance of the pot or the flavor of the bird.

Here's how you use it:

Soak the pot in a sink full of water. (The instructions say to soak for about 15 minutes - I soak mine for at least an hour. I figure longer is better - right?) After preparing your food, place it in the pot and put the pot in a cold oven and gradually raise the temperature to what you want to cook it at. (Since I have a new gas oven that has a pre-heat feature, I skip this part and just turn it to 450 degrees.) 85 minutes later, I have a perfect roast chicken. (See? I'm making stock from the bones right now.)

Here's the recipe:

  • 3 lb. chicken
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 yellow onion
  • parsley
  • celery tops
  • 2 tablespoon. melted butter (optional)
  • thyme
  • white wine (optional)
  • small vegetables (potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc.)

Wash the chicken and rub the inside with salt and pepper. Place the onion, parsley sprigs and celery tops in the cavity. Place in bottom of pot and brush with melted butter, if desired. (You really, really don't need to do this. It gets plenty brown without and you sure don't need any more fat.) Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Wine may be added for flavor. Place vegetables around chicken. Sprinkle all with minced parsley. Cover pot and place in a cold oven. Bake at 450 degrees F for about 85 minutes. If you prefer a very crisp chicken, remove the pot from the oven after 85 minutes. Take the vegetables out and pour the pot juices into a saucepan for gravy making. Then return the pot and chicken (without the lid) to the oven for crisping. (Again, I never do this as I feel it gets crisp enough without this step.)

And that's it! Easy and delicious. The only hard part is figuring out where to store the darn thing. It is so fragile when it's dry any bump could shatter it. I keep mine wrapped in tea towels at the very top of my cupboard where I have to use a step stool to retrieve it. I've had, and used, mine for years now and I'm certainly glad Cassy thought to give it to me. I know you're not going to run out and buy a clay pot cooker, but if you should get one as a gift some day, thank the giver profusely and use it! I think you'll agree that it is a wonderful way to cook.


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