Clay Pot Cooking

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Clay Pot CookingChef and cookbook author Paula Wolfert's latest book is Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking.  Many cultures use clay pots to cook.  In Spain, they make cazuela.  In Morocco they make a dish called tagine.

Tunisian Egg and Parsley Tagine

1/4 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight    
8 oz lean boneless lamb shoulder, coarsely ground    
1/2 tsp salt    
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper    
2 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil    
1/2 cup minced onion    
2 tsps tomato paste    
1/4 tsp cayenne
3 packed cups chopped flat-leaf parsley    
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs    
1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/3 cup)    
3 oz Gruyere cheese, cubed (about 1 cup)    
1/2 tsp Tunisian bharat (dried rosebuds rubbed through a sieve and mixed with ground cinnamon)    
6 large eggs    
6 lemon wedges


1. Drain the beans, cover with fresh water, and cook until they are half tender, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the lamb into 1/2-inch cubes and toss with salt and pepper.

2. Heat 1 1/4 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch skillet. Cook the onion until translucent, add the meat, and saute for 5 minutes. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat until the meat gives off its moisture and reabsorbs it. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until lamb cubes are well coated. Add cayenne, the beans, and about 1 cup of the bean cooking liquid. Cover the skillet and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes longer, or until the meat and beans are fully cooked and the juices are thick. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. (Up to this point the dish can be made 1 day in advance. Return to room temperature before proceeding.)

3. Place the oven rack in the second highest position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

4. In a mixing bowl, combine the contents of the skillet, the parsley, 1/3 cup of the bread crumbs, grated Parmesan, and cubed Gruyere, mixing well. Season highly with salt, pepper, and sieved bharat. Beat the eggs to a froth and add to the mixture.

5. Use the remaining oil to coat the bottom and sides of a 5- or 6-cup baking dish, or an attractive 9-inch well-seasoned oven proof skillet. Place the prepared mixture in the dish, sprinkle with reserved bread crumbs and set in the oven to bake for 12 minutes. Raise the oven heat to the highest setting, remove the tagine from the oven, tilt the dish so that the oil collects in one place, then brush this oil over the surface of the tagine. Return the dish to the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature from the dish.



Evan Kleiman