30 November 2009

Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking

It seems fair that we should follow up Dione Lucas with one of her most successful students. Paula Wolfert, who left college to cook after being mesmerized by Lucas, has a new cookbook, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking. Wolfert did her mentor proud, as she was recently inducted into the Cookbook Hall of Fame by the James Beard Foundation.

I love cooking in clay pots. There is something so genuine and truly lovely about them. I confess that one of the "things-I-need-to-do-before-I-die" is to make my own clay pots for my kitchen.

In the meantime, Spanish cazuelas are my favorite and Wolfert recommends an 11-or 12-inch Spanish cazuela or straight-sided flameware skillet for this recipe. There really is no more perfect dish than this, succulent shrimp, fresh garlic, a hit of heat all in a nice oil. Add some bread and you cannot go wrong.

Sizzling Shrimp with Garlic and Hot Peppers

1 pound peeled small (about 60) or medium-large, deveined (24 to 30) shrimp
1 scant cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon mildly hot dried red pepper such as Aleppo or Marash
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon sweet pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika)
4 to 6 slices chewy country bread

1. Rinse the shrimp and wipe dry with paper towels. Leave them at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes so they are not ice cold when they hit the pan.

2. Combine the olive oil, garlic, and hot pepper in the cazuela. Set it over medium-low heat and warm the pan slowly, gradually raising the heat to medium or medium-high until the oil is hot. Continue to cook until the garlic sizzles and just turns golden, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Immediately add all the shrimp and cook until they are firm and curled, 2 to 4 minutes, depending on their size.

4. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons hot water and pinches of sea salt and pimentón. Serve at once right from the pot with the bread for soaking up the delicious oily sauce.

If you are interested in clay pots or great kitchens, here is a photo from the L.A. Times of Wolfert in her kitchen surrounded by pots.

I could cook there.

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