The Spanish cazuelas is a versatile cooking dish that can be used on the stovetop, oven, microwave or barbecue. Made from fired clay, glazed on the inside and unglazed on the bottom, cazuelas have been in use for thousands of years. Cazuelas are attractive and can go straight to the table where they will retain their heat, keeping your dish hot, and even continuing the cooking process after it has been removed from the heat source. I like to use my cazuela for both sweet and savory dishes including: my Hawaiian-Style Chocolate Bread Pudding, Apple Crumble, Dutch Baby Apple Pancake, Persimmon Dutch Baby Pancake, Chorizo and Potato Enchiladas and The Best Mac & Cheese.
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Curing Your Cazuela
You must cure your cazuela to harden it so it can withstand direct heat. There are several methods for curing or seasoning the cazuela, Below are a stove-top method and an oven method. Both require soaking the cazuela in water for 12 hours and rubbing the bottom unglazed portion of the pot with a garlic clove. I have not found a good explanation as to exactly what the garlic does, but apparently garlic-rubbing has been the traditional method of curing for a thousand years.
After soaking your cazuela, dry it off, and rub the bottom unglazed part of the pot with a clove of garlic. Fill the cazuela with water up to 1/2 inch from top of pot. Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Place on stove top on low and bring to a simmer. Cook until all but 1/2 cup of water has evaporated. Let the pot cool, wash with warm water.
After soaking the cazuela, dry it off and rub the unglazed bottom of the pot with a glove of garlic. Rub the glazed inside of the pot with olive oil. Place in a 300 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours. Allow to cool, wash with warm water.
Cleaning and Drying Your Cazuela
I avoid using soap or use a minimal amount of soap when cleaning my cazuela. Even though the inside is glazed, I don't want to taint it with a soapy residue. Usually, a good soak and a brush will clean it sufficiently. Because the bottom of the cazuela is unglazed it retains water. To avoid any mold growth I let the cazuela thoroughly air dry before returning to my cupboard.
What Size and Where to Buy Your Cazuela
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Cazuelas come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but the round cazuela is the most traditional, and works best on the stove top. Make sure you purchase one that is lead-free. I have a 12 3/4" (internal measurement) round cazuela that I use for recipes that call for a 13 x 9 x 2" baking pan. Here is a traditional cazuela with an unglazed outside as well as one that has an external blue glaze and one with an external white glaze.