Slow is Beautiful. There’s a world of traditional slow-cooking pots and casseroles to explore, and many of them are so attractive, you may be tempted to put them on your display shelves instead of your stove!
• Clay pots, also called sand pots, have been used in China for hundreds of years. They’re glazed on the inside but not on the outside. These inexpensive and easy-to-find pots make a good substitute f or pricier French and Italian earthenware cooking vessels.
• Enameled cast-iron casseroles are heavy and usually expensive, but they last forever. They can also be set over a burner, so you can bring food to a simmer before it goes in the oven. The lids form a good seal to prevent evaporation and over-reduction of cooking juices.
• In Morocco, a tagine is a succulent stew, but it’s also the special dish that it cooks in. Tagines have a conical lid to catch and condense the steam, creating a self-basting vessel. Some tagines are glazed and highly decorated, meant only for serving; others are unglazed and better suited to long cooking.
• Make sure that any earthenware or glazed pot you use is lead free. New pots should be safe, but if you buy a used pot, be sure to do a lead test—you can find home testing kits at hardware stores.
• Electric slow cookers feature a stoneware insert, housed in a metal jacket containing electric elements that surround the food with a low, steady heat. The tight seal of the lid keeps in moisture and recirculates it to baste the food. That means that tougher cuts of meat and foods that have a lot of fiber, like beans and root vegetables, will cook slowly and gently in a moist environment that makes them beautifully tender.
Next week: Slow Cooker Recipes