Many home cooks have an ongoing love affair with their slow cooker, but the clay pot is one of our favorite pieces of kitchen cookware. Just about anything can be prepared in an unglazed clay pot. From soups to stews and casseroles to breads, clay pots are versatile and can offer the dish duty-phobic a night off as they inspire one-pot meals with less fuss. We especially like that clay pots can cook lean cuts of meat while keeping them moist and tender with little added fat. This is possible because the ingredients are constantly surrounded by steam while they cook in the pot. Like other clay cookware and even cast iron, most clay pots require seasoning before use. Many also require soaking in water prior to each use for maximum clay pot cooking power.
Diverse cultures around the world have adapted clay pot cooking to their own cuisines, and the Chinese are no exception. Here is one of our favorite clay pot beef recipes: Chinese red cooked beef. The great thing about this easy recipe is that it works with your earthenware or as a stir-fry. You’ll find instructions for both methods of cooking below. With garlic, ginger, and whole star anise, this dish is the perfect warming meal for a cold winter's day.
This recipe serves 3 to 4 people.
- 1 onion
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (olive oil can be used)
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless stewing beef, cut into chunks
- 2 cups water , or as needed
- 1/2 cup light soy sauce
- 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
- 1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 – 3 whole star anise
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- Reconstitute the dried mushrooms by soaking them in hot water until softened (20 to 30 minutes). Squeeze out any excess water and chop.
- Roll cut the carrots (if you know how or learn how to roll cut veggies here) or cut on the diagonal. Finely chop the garlic and ginger. Chop the onion.
- Heat the oil in a preheated wok or a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger. Stir-fry until aromatic, then add half the beef. Let the beef brown briefly, then stir-fry until it loses its pinkness and is about 80 percent cooked. Remove the beef and drain. Repeat with the remainder of the beef. Stir-fry the onion, for about 2 minutes, until it begins to soften.
- At this point you can continue cooking in the wok or move to a clay pot.
- If you are cooking in a wok: Add the beef, water, soy sauce, the Chinese rice wine or sherry, star anise, and sugar. Bring everything to a boil.
- If cooking in a clay pot: Add the beef, water, soy sauce, Chinese rice wine or sherry, star anise, sugar, and the onion to the clay pot, and bring to a boil on the stovetop (if your clay pot or earthenware can withstand the stovetop), starting with low heat and then gradually increasing the heat to medium until the liquid comes to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.
- Add the dried mushroom and carrots. Simmer for another 30 minutes, or until the liquid is almost reduced. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired. Remove th star anise before serving.
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