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Saturday, February 11, 2012

An authentic taste of Spain, cooking with Cazuela’s

Photo Courtesy of Orce Serrano Hams
A cazuela (pronounced ka'swela) is a terracotta or earthenware cooking dish.  They come in many sizes and are a staple in every Spanish kitchen. They are made in such a way that the terracotta dish is slowly fired in a kiln, producing a cazuela that is close to a brick in density. Because of this classic process, cazuelas hold a slow, steady heat, allowing foods to cook gently and evenly. You then serve cazuelas straight to the table where your food continues to simmer or sizzle for another 5 - 10 minutes.

With their rustic and classic design, the Spanish Cazuela not only looks fantastic on the table but they are extremely versatile. You can cook a large range of dishes from stews, to tapas dishes, and even a roast, then you simply serve the dish straight to the table. They can be used on on gas/electric/ceramic stoves, in the oven, or over an open fire or BBQ grill. You can use a cazuela in place of a skillet, a paella pan (a paella becomes “rice cazuela”), a sauté pan, or an oven casserole. You can sauté and brown foods in a cazuel by just adding enough oil to cover the bottom surface and heat the oil until very hot. Don’t crowd the pan with the foods to be browned. 

Photo Courtesy of Orce Serrano Hams
One of the great things about Cazuelas is that come in a range of sizes from a mini 8cm cazuela, great for serving olives and nuts, up to 3 feet in diameter! Whilst Artesano doesn’t offer the 3ft ones, yet!, we do have a range from 8cm up to 37cm.  Just about every Spanish household has a range of cazuelas in it’s kitchen, often passed down from mother to daughter. Cazuelas are also your classic tapas dish used in tapas bars and restaurants throughout Spain. 

In Spain, cazuela is both the name of the cooking vessel and of foods cooked in it. Most cazuela dishes start with a sauté, or sofrito, and finish braising with liquid.

Recipes to try in your cazuela.......
The following recipes and photographs have been kindly provided by Orce Serrano Hams, in Spain.  For more fabulous authentic Spanish recipes please get yourself a copy of the new fantastic cook book, “Mouthwatering Spanish Recipes” from co-authors Gayle MacDonald (Orce Serrrano Hams) and Victoria Twead, author of Amazon best seller “Chickens, Mules and two old fools”. See book on right hand side of blog and click on the image to take you to where you can get yourself either a ebook or a paperback. I highly recommend it.

Butterflied King Prawns in Garlic Butter
This Spanish tapas recipe for butterflied king prawns make perfect starters. Cooked in their own individual mini cazuelas these tapas can be served hot at any function or as simple tapas. Spanish cazuelas retain heat very well so your prawns will remain hot sizzling away in garlic butter, serve with crusty bread for mopping up the garlic butter.

6 prawns per serve, 
Photo by Ian MacDonald 

You will need
6 King prawns per 12cm cazuela
3 Garlic cloves, chopped
75g Butter
Parsley, chopped

-Start by shelling the prawns but leave the tails on.
-Run your thumb down the length of the back and remove the black gritty string.
-Rinse the prawns then, using a small sharp knife slice the prawns down their backs but not all the way through.
-Open the prawns and arrange in their cazuelas.
-In a bowl mix the butter together with the chopped garlic and parsley then add a good spoonful to each cazuela covering the prawns.
-Cook over the gas stove or in a hot oven for 5 – 6 minutes until the prawns are done.
-Serve sizzling hot with fresh crusty bread.

Chorizo Braised in Red Wine
The Spanish chorizo, a highly versatile sausage that comes in many forms, chorizo extra, chorizo duro, chorizo picante, "fire" chorizo . . . The chorizo makes ideal tapas and can also add a real Spanish twist to an abundance of recipes. Here we have something very tasty and very simple - spicy chorizo braised in red wine. Delicious Spanish tapas full of earthy flavour!

Makes 10 - 12 tapas

Photo by Ian MacDonald 
You will need:
6 Cured chorizo sausages
1 Bottle of red wine (such as Rioja)
5 Garlic cloves (crushed)
Handful of oregano
Tablespoon of lemon zest
Black pepper

-Place all of the ingredients in a large terracotta cazuela.
-Pour in the wine so that the chorizo sausages are half to two thirds submerged.
-Bring to boil then reduce the heat and simmer.
-Turn over the chorizos and continue to cook for 12 - 15 minutes.
-Once cooked, cut the chorizo into segments and place on cocktail sticks ready to serve.

Cazuela Pies
Beef and ale pie. Try this Spanish twist on the traditional beef and ale pie, cooked individually in terracotta cazuelas (earthenware dishes) these pies can be made as large or small as you like. The Spanish cazuela has a knack of keeping food hot for a very long time so these pies are best to cool for 10 minutes once removed from the oven. You will also need a litre of premium San Miguel beer for this recipe . . . a delicious winter warmer!

Makes 4 individual pies in 14cm cazuelas

Photo by Ian MacDonald 
You will need:
1 kilo stewing beef, cut into chunks
2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
8-10 medium mushrooms, wiped and cut into quarters
Good handful frozen peas
1 litre San Miguel beer
2 tablespoons, plain flour
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper

-Heat some olive oil and butter in a large stewing pot and when nice and hot, add the beef. Cook off until brown all over.
-Add the flour and cook, stirring for a few minutes
-Add the vegetables and continue to cook, stirring for about 5 minutes.
-Add the salt, pepper, bay leaves and the beer.
-Bring to the boil and then reduce to a very low heat and cook, covered for about 2 ½ hours.
-Add the peas and adjust seasoning if necessary. Cook uncovered for another hour or so until the beef is melt in the mouth tender.
-Transfer the stew to individual cazuelas and top each one with shortcrust pastry.
-To make the pastry stick, dampen the edges of the cazuela with a little water and then flute the edges of the pastry and trim off the excess.
-Make a slit in the top of each pie and top with a little egg wash.
-Bake in a hot oven for around 20 minutes until the pastry is cooked and golden.
Serve with chips – lovely!

Cazuela omelette /Breakfast / Brunch / Dinner
Well it’s kind of an omelette anyway, you know when you just have one of those days when there is not much in the fridge and you decide to invent something using the contents of the fridge. Very rustic, easy to make and filling, for the recipe below we use a 20cm cazuela, although you can always make them in individual, say 14cm Cazuela for one serving. Note: something like asparagus may need par boiling first

Photo by Ian MacDonald 
Ingredients (serves 3 to 4)
6 eggs
Pancetta or Serrano ham or bacon
Green/red pepper
Manchego cheese 
Anything suitable from the back of the fridge
Ground black pepper
(substitute for Manchego is a sharp, hard Spanish sheeps milk cheese. You could substitute parmesan, romano, or a very sharp, white English cheddar.

-Pre-heat oven to 180 deg
-Whisk the eggs in the cazuela
-Slice /chop  ingredients apart from the  cheese 
-Add ingredients to egg and mix well
-Grate a little manchego cheese over top
-Season with dried thyme or smoked paprika
-Bake in oven for 15min

Cazuela care and use
First Care
They should be soaked (completely immersed) in water for 24 hours prior to use for the first time. Dry well, then coat the inside with olive oil and place in a medium-low oven for 40 minutes. Frequent use is the best method for seasoning cazuelas. If you live in a very dry climate you may want to resoak occasionally.

General Use
Once their moisture content is restored, they can be used over direct flame (gas or electric range) on low to medium (high heat not recommended), in the oven, or in the microwave. If using an electric or ceramic cooktop, it is suggested that you always use a heat diffuser when cooking in earthenware. Start them with the burner on low heat. When the rim is warm to the touch, you can turn the heat up. Never heat an empty/dry cazuela. Take care not to set a hot one down on a cold surface, as it might crack. Really big cazuelas are heavy and not easy to manoeuvre in and out of the oven. Small cazuelitas are fine for microwave cooking and reheating.

I wash mine by hand because I think they look to nice to go into a dishwasher but cazuelas may be washed in the dishwasher if they are placed so the rims do not bang against another dish as this may cause chipping. The cazuelas are durable if given minimum care & not subjected to abrupt temperature changes.

We use cazuelas for everything from roasting chicken, a range of seafood and meat dishes, rice dishes and cooking and serving tapas.