Kitchen Must Haves
I heard about clay pot ovens about four years ago on NPR's "Splendid Table". She always talks stuff up on that show so much, I once had an over whelming urge to rush out and spend $30 for an ounce of vanilla beans. Luckily my sensibility prevailed, but I do still wonder what all the hype is.
I looked for clay pot ovens in department stores and specialty shops and discovered that they are both very hard to find and very expensive if you are lucky enough to locate one. Not wanting to spend $50 on something I wasn't even sure would outlast the fad stage of kitchen gadgetry, I left them for another day - the day that I make my millions.
There is a second hand shop in our town that I absolutely LOVE!! It is one of my favorite places to buy clothes and they always seem to have the household stuff that I have trouble finding other places. And the clay pot oven was no exception. They had three of them! I bought one today for $10. Isn't it great looking? SSB loves the Aztec style symbols on the pot, I love the utilitarian shape - the bottom nests perfectly in the lid for easy storage.
I immediately washed it out (you can't use detergent; you must use either salt or baking soda to wash it). While it was soaking in water (you need to soak it in water for 10-15 minutes before putting the ingredients so it will keep your food moist while it cooks) I chopped up a sweet onion, a few potatoes, and a few stalks of celery. I also ground some rosemary and thyme in my mortar and pestle (another kitchen must have!). Once the pot had soaked up enough water, I threw some apple cider drink mix in the bottom, piled in a cut whole chicken, sprinkled it with sea salt and the ground spice, then dumped in the chopped veggies with some baby carrots. On goes the lid and into a cold oven. Turned on the oven for 450 degrees (100 degrees hotter than you would usually cook the food at) then I left to run some errands. And I almost made it back in time!
So yeah, there was a little burning involved because I stayed out too long. BUT it was still AWESOME! The chicken was so tender that it just fell off the bone. And it was still pretty moist considering that it had overcooked. There was no added oils to cook the chicken so it is healthier. Plus the way that the chicken is cooked enhances the vitamin and mineral content in the chicken giving it the beneficial properties found in chicken soup.
Doesn't it look delicious even if it is a little, er, toasty?
IT WAS! The apple cider mix was a great inspired touch, too!