Artisan Producers, Cooking, Craftsmanship, Eat Good Food, Field Notes

Clay Cooking Transcends Time and Tradition

Clay cookware brings traditions to the kitchen and tenderness to recipes. Since their invention about 12,000 years ago, clay pots have been used for good cooking and good eating across cultures and geographies. Clay vessels have unique properties that make them ideal for roasting, baking, steaming, and braising. The porousness of the material allows for heat and moisture to slowly circulate around the dish while it cooks. This makes the resulting food more tender, juicy, and delicious.

There are health benefits associated with clay cooking. Recipes do not require as much oil or fat because clay naturally draws out the rich flavors by heating evenly and recirculating steam. Some claim that clay cooking retains vitamins and minerals that otherwise would be lost in the process. Also, the alkaline in clay balances out the acidity in food, which makes the flavors more coherent and rounded.

Cooking and serving in clay cookware encourages a certain thoughtfulness in the kitchen. Gathering for a slow-cooked meal becomes a sought-often moment of respite. We offer a selection of clay cookware pieces, each with a unique story to tell. These made-to-last vessels are a way to connect to traditional cooking techniques from around the world and make your own memories.


Chamba (La Chamba, Colombia)
Chamba cookware is handmade by local artisans in La Chamba, Colombia, out of natural clay. Each piece is burnished with stones and fired on site. Chamba earthenware pieces are unglazed; their distinctive black color coming from the clay and how they are fired in the kiln. We use Chamba dishes in our Café because they retain the heat well from our oven to your table. The smooth black finish makes the vessels appear strikingly modern. However, the origins of the vessel’s design can be traced back 700 years to pre-Columbian archaeological sites.

The Chamba roaster and bean pots are designed for cooking meats, stews, and pulses. The lid-less options are the Chamba Oval Platter for roasting and baking, and the Chamba Comal for heating tortillas and roasting chilies.


Oaxacan Collection (San Marcos Tlapazola, Oaxaca, Mexico)
We are proud to offer a selection of clay earthenware from Oaxaca. These pieces were created in San Marcos Tlapazola in collaboration with Colectivo 1050º, a design guild devoted to maintaining and advancing Oaxacan craft tradition. There are over seventy pottery villages in Oaxaca, each with distinct workshops and artisans. Eric Mindling’s book Fire and Clay: The Art of Oaxacan Pottery is an essential introduction to the culture imbued in Oaxacan pottery.

The Elia Cooking Pot is suited for beans, soups, and braising meat. The Elia Rice Pot can be used for rice and other grains. The Clay Grill is a portable grill for meat and vegetables, as well as a mobile stovetop for cooking soup and warming tortillas. It is an intricately made and striking to watch in action.


Manufacture de Digoin (Burgundy, France)
Founded in 1875, Manufacture de Digoin originated as a family ceramic business in the northern Loire valley and established itself crafting staples of the French kitchen. Digoin specializes in earthenware and stoneware made from local materials. Each piece of pottery is hand-shaped by artisans and made to stand the test of time.

We’re honored to be Manufacture de Digoin’s first collaboration with a U.S. company. Digoin’s selection of clay cookware includes unglazed and glazed pieces that serve a variety of functions. The Unglazed Roasting Pot works like a stove-top to roast potatoes, beets, and even chestnuts and coffee beans. The Unglazed Terracotta Roaster is ideal for baking bread (the clay will keep the insides soft and the make crust crispy) and roasting chicken – check out our roast chicken recipe. This type of roaster dates back to Roman times and is nicknamed the “four crétois,” which translates as “the Cretan oven” or “Mediterranean oven.”


Nagatani-en Pottery (Iga, Japan)
We source our donabes, traditional Japanese clay pots, from the Nagatani-en clayware house founded in 1832. Nagatani-en is the leading producer of Iga-yaki pottery, which is crafted from clay from the 4-million-year-old seabed of Lake Biwa. Iga-yaki donabes are handcrafted, each taking two weeks to complete. Donabe cooking has been traced by 10,000 years, yet the vessel remains a modern kitchen staple.

The Donabe Clay Smoker can be used for grilling vegetables and fish (here’s our getting started guide). Due to its thick clay body, the Donabe Rice Cooker steam-cooks rice even after it is removed from the heat source, making the rice extra fluffy. The Donabe Clay Steamer is an impressive cooking and serving vessel well-suited for fish, chicken, or vegetables.

Eat Good Food

Donabe Cooking – Easy and Delicious

The donabe, a traditional Japanese clay pot, is one of our favorite cooking vessels. We’re clearly not alone. Archaeologists date these versatile cooking vessels to 10,000 years ago.

We source our donabes from the venerable Nagatani-en clayware house, founded in 1832 and the leading producer of Iga-yaki pottery. Each donabe takes two weeks to complete and is an artisanal piece of work unto itself. Sourced from an ancient lakebed that contains millions of tiny fossils, Iga’s clay is naturally porous with a rough surface that distributes air flow and can withstand high heat efficiently.

Here are just a few of our favorite donabes. To inspire, we also offer a Chicken Hot Pot recipe adapted from the book Donabe, (co-authored by our friends Naoko Takei Moore and chef Kyle Connaughton) to pair with it.

Hot Pot (Classic Iga-yaki Donabe)
This classic-style donabe has found a place at the modern table in the form of a communal one-pot meal, or nabemono (“things-in-a-pot”). Almost every household in Japan has at least one classic-style donabe used to cook a variety of dishes tabletop. The classic-style donabe is also ideal for stewing or braising.

Rice Cooker (Kamado-san)
The importance of a good rice cooker is impossible to overstate. The bottom of this hand-fired piece is almost twice as thick as a regular donabe to allow for greater heat retention and gentle cooking. Even after the heating element is turned off, heat retained from the clay kept continues to steam-cook the rice to its perfect fluffiness.

Iga-yaki Grill (Yaki Yaki San)
The grill body of this donabe is designed to work as a hearth, which helps to build heat slowly and prevents the grill from becoming too hot. The outer reservoir can be filled with water and act as a drip pan to collect excess fat, cooking ingredients to the desirable doneness with a minimal amount of smoke.

Smoker (Ibushi Gin)
Smoke seafood and meat to mushrooms and vegetables all at the same time with the Iga-made donabe smoker. The base and lid of the donabe become tightly sealed after pouring water around the rim, creating a steamy vessel that keeps smoke in and permeates the ingredients with flavor. Learn more about how to get started with the smoker.

Tagine-style (Fukkura-san)
“Fukkura” means “fluffy” in Japanese. This versatile donabe is suitable to use to stir-fry, steam-fry, roast, stew, or smoke food. Use in hot or cold preparations, with or without its lid, either directly on the skillet or with a grate. The lid can also be used as a serving bowl for both hot and cold food. Unlike other donabe, Fukkura-san doesn’t need to be seasoned before you start using it for the first time. Once rinsed and dried, it’s ready to cook!

 

Recipe: Chicken Hot Pot
Use the classic Iga-Yaki donabe with this dish. It’s an easy way to cook a delicious and healthy one pot meal, which you can make and serve right at the table, using whatever ingredients you might have on hand. This recipe is pretty familiar, like chicken soup!
Serves 4

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into large bite-sized pieces
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 cups chicken dashi
1 cup kombu dashi
¼ cup sake
2 ½ to 3 tbsp mirin
2 ½ to 3 tbsp soy sauce
½ small head Napa cabbage (about 10 ounces/ 300 g), cut into bite-size strips (separate the bottom and leafy parts)
2 negi (Japanese green onions), or 6 green onions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced on the diagonal
6 to 8 very small carrots, halved crosswise
8 ounces assorted mushrooms
1 (14 ounce) package medium-firm tofu, cut into 8 pieces
5 ounces mizuna (including stems), bottom ends trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
Yuzu-kosho, for serving

Season the chicken all over with the salt. Let the chicken marinate for 15 to 30 minutes.

To make the broth, combine the chicken dashi, kombu dashi, sake, mirin, and soy sauce in the donabe and add the bottom part of the Napa cabbage. Cover and set over medium-high heat.

As soon as the broth starts to boil, turn down the heat to simmer. Add the chicken and the rest of the ingredients except for the mizuna.

Cover again and bring back to a simmer. Simmer until everything is just cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the mizuna and cook for 1 minute longer before turning off the heat.

Serve in individual bowls at the table with yuzu-kosho.

 

Eat Good Food

Getting Started: Donabe Clay Smoker

Nothing says summer like cooking with fire. Our donabe clay smoker is the perfect centerpiece for a summer meal, or any time of the year, adding subtle flavor to everything from grilled vegetables to fish, or even nuts and cheese. Here’s how to get started using it.

Basic Smoking Tips

Line the bottom of a donabe smoker with a piece of aluminum foil. Make sure that the foil is pressed firmly into the bottom.

Place a handful of dry smoke chips spread in a large ring shape atop the foil. If the ingredients have a high fat or moisture content, place another, slightly larger piece of foil very loosely over the smoke chips in order to catch the drippings and keep the smoke chips from getting wet.

Make sure there is room for the smoke to escape between the two layers of foil.

Prepare your ingredients, ensuring that none is cut thicker than an inch and that all are dry with no excess moisture.

Set the grates inside the smoker one by one, placing ingredients on each grate before adding the next and making sure not overlap.

The lower grate tends to become hotter, as it’s closer to the flame, so if you are smoking different ingredients at the same time, place the thicker ingredients on the bottom grate.

Set the donabe smoker, uncovered, over high heat. Once the smoke chips start to release smoke, about 7 to 8 minutes, cover with the lid.

Fill the reservoir in the rim of the base a little over half full with water. Smoke for 7 to 9 minutes over high heat, and then turn off the heat.

Cooking times will vary depending on the ingredients, amount, and sizes.