Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking

Two Easy Clay Pot Recipes Make a Meal


While leafing through Paula Wolfert’s most recent cookbook; Clay Pot Cooking, I couldn’t help but think of all the geeky wines that would work as the perfect foil for these richly seasoned, and frequently exotic, dishes. I mean, the Gratin of Pig’s foot with Vin Jaune and Comte Cheese is not exactly an ideal pairing with your favorite Merlot or Chardonnay. I’m going to be test driving the recipe this weekend though!

Truth be told, there are plenty of classic dishes in Clay Pot Cooking, but I was more intrigued by the exotic. I found a pair of recipes that used familiar ingredients in unusual ways, and my thoughts immediately turned to the off-dry Roses of the Loire as the perfect compliment. What a fun, and festive feast for welcoming spring! Whenever that might be. Heck it would be a treat right now as we dig out of yet another east coast blizzard!

Paula Wolfert

Paula Wolfert is widely acknowledged as one of the premier food writers in America and the “queen of Mediterranean cooking.” She writes a quarterly column in Food & Wine, and is the author of seven cookbooks, several of which have remained in print for upwards of 30 years.

Buy the book: Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking: Traditional and Modern Recipes to Savor and Share

Paula Wolfert's Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Sweet Onions and Raisins

Click here to download a printable PDF file of this recipe. SERVES 4 TO 6

Unlike Western stews, just a few Moroccan tagines call for an initial intense sautéing. If browning is required, it is usually done in a hot oven, under a clay dish filled with hot coals, or under a broiler after the meat or chicken is simmered to perfection on top of the stove.

In my travels through southern Morocco I noticed that many of the tagine cooking pots were unglazed and made of a clay that shimmered due to high mica content. Such tagines, I was told, were particularly strong and could take direct flame heat. This corresponded to my observation that it is in southern Morocco that one finds tagine recipes, such as this one, that call for early browning. You can find an unglazed and mica rich tagine from the Moroccan Souss region at Here I brown the chicken legs and thighs in the tagine and at the same time slowly cook the sauce in a separate casserole to develop a rich intensity of flavor and color. After this stage, chicken and sauce are combined and then baked to glaze the onion topping.

Preferred Clay Pots:

A 3-quart glazed or unglazed earthenware or flameware saucepan or casserole with a tight-fitting lid

A 10- to 12-inch flameware tagine or Spanish cazuela

If using an electric or ceramic stovetop, be sure to use a heat diffuser with the clay pots.

3 pounds large whole chicken legs, preferably organic

2 pounds large onions, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced

3 tablespoons unsalted butt er

Pinch of saff ron threads

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons sugar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup raisins

2 tablespoons honey

1. Separate the chicken legs at the joint into thighs and drumsticks. Trim off any excess fat. Let come to room temperature. Meanwhile, soak the saffron in 1/2 cup warm water for 15 minutes.

2. Place the onions, 1 tablespoon of the butter, the saffron and soaking water, cinnamon, ginger, sugar, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper in the 3-quart earthenware casserole. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. (If the onions begin to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to low.)

3. Remove the cover. Add the raisins, raise the heat to medium, and continue cooking, uncovered, until the onions are soft and glazed and the sauce is thickened and reduced to 2 cups, about 45 minutes longer.

4. Put 1 tablespoon of the butter in the tagine. Add the chicken and set over medium-low heat. Cook slowly until the butter sizzles and the chicken skin begins to release some fat. Raise the heat to medium and continue to brown the chicken, moving it around in the tagine to keep it from sticking, but always keeping it on the skin side, for 30 minutes. From time to time, tilt the tagine and spoon off excess fat. Note that you will have to adjust the heat to keep the chicken browning slowly and consistently. Use a wooden or silicone spatula to scrape up bits and pieces that attach to the bottom of the tagine.

5. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Reduce the heat under the tagine to medium-low, turn the chicken pieces over, and cook for 15 minutes longer. Turn over again and brush the skin side of the chicken with the honey.

6. Transfer the tagine to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the chicken is glazed, about 10 minutes.

7. Spread the onion sauce over the chicken, dot with the remaining butter, and bake until the onions turn golden brown, about 5 minutes.

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  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 5,000

    Try the vin jaune and comte trotters dish with chardonnay from Jura, and it might just work! Something about the light effervescence of that version of the wine makes me think it's worth a try...;-)

    Thanks for including these interesting recipes. Any suggestions for wine matches beyond the Anjou rose? I can think of a passel of other roses that would work, including several from Tavel, but even some whites.

    After some time in Morocco I starting trying some tagine cooking back home, but as usual went a little world-eclectic on some of my recipes. One that I keep going back to involves those same bone-in chicken legs together with lots of garlic, lots of Kalamata olives, lots of jalapeno peppers (hey, I've spent plenty of time in Mexico, too...), cooked at great length sometimes in beer, sometimes in chicken stock and sometimes in white wine. I've found beer a no-brainer match for he dish, but also had success accompanying it with albariño and fino sherries from Spain, rieslings and gewurtztraminers from Alsace, and the Tavel roses mentioned above. Less success with sauternes and California zins which on a couple of occasions were the only wines in the house, so we defaulted to beer. One time it also worked with a log of NV blanc de noirs and rose champagne (but then we were gearing up to party mode, anyway). All in all a fasicnatingly complex dish just served with rice, that gets even more delicious reheated as leftovers....

    Mar 02, 2010 at 4:00 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 5,000

    Sorry, a 'lot' (and I do mean many bottles among the lot of us ;-) ) of NV blanc de noirs...

    Mar 02, 2010 at 4:01 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Still haven't had time to try the recipe but I think the Jura Chardonnay is an excellent recommendation. I wouldn't mind a log of nv BdN from time to time.

    Mar 08, 2010 at 9:27 AM

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