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Handsome, inexpensive, and they cook "purer and sweeter." They're Chinese clay pots.

Handsome, inexpensive, and they cook "purer and sweeter.' They're Chinese clay pots

Long used in China, clay and ceramic cooking pots are also sold in the West. Such cookware is integral to the preparation of certain classic Chinese dishes, but in can also be put to general use in Western kitchens. This versatility, plus handsome looks and often bargain prices, makes these pots great gifts.

For centuries, clay pots were used for cooking over fires and charcoal braziers. The clay lends a special flavor to food cooked in it; some say food tastes purer and sweeter. Food can be cooked and served sizzling hot from the same pot.

The collection we show ranges from rough earthenware to smooth porcelain. The coarse sandy pots are used much like covered casseroles. Yunnan clay pots, with their con-shaped interiors, can steam and make soup at the same time. And the steaming bowls can be used in the oven or in a steamer. With each pot, we offer a traditions recipe as well as suggestions for other uses. (You can also cook these dishes in pans you already own.)

Look for the pots in Chinese markets, cookware stores, and import outlets.

As with any ceramic cookware, these pots must be handled with care. Apply heat gradually. Avoid sudden temperature changes, such as setting a cold pot on high heat. Unglazed pots absorb flavors readily, so use a minimum of detergent to clean them.

Sandy pots

Made from a special clay that withstand intense temperatures, these bisquecolored pots can be used directly over heat or in the oven. The exterior is unglazed, often rough and sandy in texture. Wires are often wrapped around the exterior to conduct heat more evenly. A dark brown glaze covers the interior and sometimes the outside of the lid.

Sandy pots come in several shapes with one or two handles; the most versatile is the slope-sided pot shown above. They range from individual-serving size to 5 quarts, and cost $5 to $15. Check carefully for cracks when buying.

Before each use, many cooks will soak a sandy pot in water at least 1 hour or up to overnight. Having absorbed some water, the porous pot heats more slowly and is less likely to break. But there's no need to soak if you heat the pot slowly. Always use a wire diffuser on electric burners. With gas burners, use the diffuser if the pot has no wire wrap.

Traditionally used for Chinese braised meats, long-simmering stews, rice, and casseroles, the pots can also be used for Western-flavored counterparts of the same type. To use an ovenware, put filled pot in cold oven, then turn on the heat.

Beef and Turnip Stew

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons dry sherry

2 tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 cups water

3 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

2 star anise or 1 teaspoon crushed anise seed and 1 cinnamon stick, 3 inches long

3 thin slices fresh ginger, about 1 by 3 inches

2 green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths

About 1 pound small turnips, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

In a 2 1/2- to 3-quart Chinese sandy pot or other pan, combine soy, sherry, sugar, water, beef, anise, ginger, and onions. Cover and bring slowly to simmering over medium heat (if using clay pot on an electric range, use a wire diffuser). Simmer, covered, until meat is almost tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Add turnips and continue simmering, covered, until turnips and meat are very tender when pierced, 45 to 50 minutes longer. Skim off and discard fat. Serve from clay cooking pot or transfer to serving bowl. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Yunnan pot

Named for a province in southers China, this red clay pot with a con-shaped spout in the center is used for wet steaming. The covered clay steamer is set in a larger pan of water; as the water boils, the spout draws up some of the water, which mixes with the juices of the food in the steamer. Pots range from 7 to 9 inches in diameter and cost $11 to $28.

Chicken is often steamed in the Yunnan pot. We offer a Chinese version and an adaptation of the French classic, pot-aufeu. Other cuts of meats such as corned beef or beef shanks also work well. (An alternative to the Yunnan pan is an uncovered bowl in a steamer.)

Yunnan Chicken and Mushrooms

12 small dried shiitake mushrooms

Water

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules

1/4 cup dry sherry

4 chicken legs with thighs attached (about 2 lb.)

3 green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths

4 thin slices fresh ginger, about 1 by 3 inches

Green onion sauce (recipe follows)

Soak mushrooms in enough water to cover until soft, about 20 minutes; drain. Cut off stems. Mix bouillon with sherry and pour into a 8- or 9-inch Yunnan pot or 2-quart bowl. Arrange chicken, mushrooms, onion, and ginger in pot. Cover Yunnan pot, but leave bowl uncovered.

Place a rack in the bottom of a deep pan wide enough to hold dish, such as a kettle or wok. Set pot on rack and fill pan with enough water to reach halfway up sides of Yunnan pot, or just under bottom of bowl. Cover pan (use foil if pot extends above pan rim) and bring water to boiling. Steam, adding more boiling water as needed to maintain water level, until chicken is no longer pink in thickest part (cut to test), about 1 hour.

Lift out pot. Skim off fat and discard. Lift chicken and mushrooms onto plates; eat with onion sauce; sip broth from cups. Makes 4 servings.

Green onion sauce. To a 6- to 8-inch frying pan over high heat, add 2 tablespoons salad oil, 3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion, and 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger; stir until onion is just limp. Remove from heat and add 3 tablespoons soy sauce. Serve hot or cool.

Chicken Pot-au-Feu

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules

2 medium-size leeks

2 chicken legs with thighs attached (about 1 lb. total)

4 small thin-skinned potatoes (1 1/2- to 2-in. diameter)

2 large carrots, peeled and cut in 3-inch lengths

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon dry thyme leaves

Water

Dijon mustard and prepared horseradish

Mix wine with bouillon and pour into an 8- or 9-inch Yunnan poat or 2-quart bowl. Trim off roots and tough tops from leeks. Split leeks in half and rinse; cut into 3-inch lengths. Arrange leeks, chicken, potatoes, carrots, garlic, and bay in the pot or bowl. Sprinkle with thyme.

Cover Yunnan pot; leave bowl uncovered. Place a rack in a pan wide enough to hold pot, such as a kettle or wok. Set pot or bowl on rack. Pour water into pan so that it comes halfway up sides of Yunnan pot, slightly under rack in bowl. Cover pan and bring water to boiling. Steam, adding boiling water as needed to maintain water level, until chicken is no longer pink in thickest part (cut to test), about 1 hour. Lift out chicken and vegetables, and eat with mustard and horseradish. Skim off and discard fat from broth; serve in cups to sip. Serves 2.

Steaming bowls

These covered glazed ceramic bowls are used for dry-steaming large cuts of meat or making clear soups. The bowl is set in a pot of water, like the Yunnan pot. But since no water or steam enters the bowl, the food cooks in its own juices. Steam provides a cooking environment much like an oven. In fact, these bowls work fine in an oven; results are similar except food browns more. Steaming bowls are also great for baked beans and oven-braised meats. Start the bowl in a cold oven.

Most steaming bowls range from 6 to 7 inches in diameter, with a capacity of 1 1/2 to 2 quarts. One popular style is white with blue trim; another has a plain dark brown glaze. Prices range from $7 to $10. (An alternative is a covered casserole.)

Pork with Garlic Sauce

2 tablespoons salad oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

3 tablespoons sliced green onion

2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons dry sherry

2 tablespoons soy sauce

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder

In a 6- to 8-inch frying pan, stir oil and garlic over medium heat until garlic is lightly browned. Remove from heat and stir in green onion, sugar, sherry, and soy sauce. Trim excess fat off pork and place meat in a 2-quart Chinese steaming bowl or other ceramic casserole. Pour garlic sauce over meat and cover bowl.

To bake, place in a cold oven and turn temperature to 350|. Cook until meat is very tender when pierced, about 3 hours. To steam, set a rack in the bottom of a deep kettle or wok wide enough to accommodate bowl. Set covered bowl on rack and fill pan with enough water to reach halfway up sides of clay pot. Cover pan (use foil if pot is above pan rim) and bring water to boiling. Steam, adding boing water to maintain level as needed, until meat is very tender when pierced, about 3 hours.

Skim off and discard fat. Serves 6.

Photo: Chinese ceramic pots are handsome and practical; use them for cooking both Chinese and Western dishes. Wire wrapped around bases of sandy pots helps to diffuse heat

Sandy pots for use over direct heat or in oven

Yunnan pot for wet steaming has center chimney

Steaming bowls can also be used for baking

Photo: Pork in garlic sauce bakes in bowl traditionally used for steaming. If steamed, meat would be paler in color. Slice pork and serve with napa cabbage, or eat tender meat shreds with chopsticks

Photo: Sturdy string, threaded through handles of Yunnan pot, makes it easier to lift from pan. Water perks through spout in center of pot, mixing with juices for soup

Photo: Sandy pot cooks beef stew over direct heat. Wire helps to conduct heat. Pot can also be used in oven
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Publication:Sunset
Date:Dec 1, 1984
Words:1689
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