Spoonfuls of Germany

Comfort in a clay pot

22 Comments

Römertopf

When I met my husband, he had been living alone with his two children, 8 and 10 at the time, for several years. I was a 30-something having little experience with children, let alone ever any responsibility for anyone except myself, and an only child at that. As I slowly began to settle in the vast and unknown terrain of parenting, the kitchen was the place where I felt the most comfortable. That’s where I sort of knew what I was doing, and where I could literally bring something new to the table. I remember the times when both kids climbed on the kitchen island to watch me cook.

After a while, to make room for my stuff, I started sorting through the kitchen cabinets, giving away what I knew I would never use, and moving other things into the basement for storage. I could not believe it when my eyes fell on a clay pot from Germany, known under the brand name Römertopf. “Where did you get this?,” I asked my husband. He shrugged his shoulders. “At the kitchen store in D.C. I was told that anybody could cook with this, and that it was foolproof.”

Although I had never cooked in a Römertopf and did not own one myself, it was a very familiar item. Clay pots have of course been around for thousands of years yet the Römertopf, just like the fondue pot, is for Germans clearly associated with the 1970’s. The only thing Roman about it is the name. The pot was introduced in 1967 and it is still being produced in Germany today. The company now makes different models, sizes and shapes, though I still like the classic model the best.

Initially I only used the pot to store bread. The first chicken I braised in it made me change my mind. The meat comes out wonderfully moist and succulent. And the pot is indeed foolproof; the only thing you must do is soak it in cold water, and place it in the cold oven.

Our son has been home for spring break, and before he goes back to college this weekend I wanted to make a pot roast. There is no more climbing on the countertop these days but as always he showed up in the kitchen while I was cooking, telling me how good it smells, and that he cannot wait for dinner.

For me, this is the epitome of comfort food.

Pot Roast from the Römertopf

Recipe adapted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child

1 5-pound bottom round of beef, fat removed

6 parsley sprigs including stems

3 thyme twigs

6 black peppercorns

3 whole cloves

4 allspice berries

1 large bay leaf

3 large garlic cloves, smashed

2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped carrot

1½ cups chopped peeled tomatoes

1½ cups dry red wine

Salt

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Pepper

1. Place the Römertopf, bottom and lid, in a sink or a large container filled with cold water and soak for 20 to 30 minutes. The pot should be completely immersed in water. Drain and dry.

2. Tie the roast with butcher twine every 1.5 inches. Gather the herbs, spices and garlic in a triple-folded piece of cheesecloth and tie it at the top with a piece of butcher twine.

3. Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown the roast from all sides. Transfer the roast to the Römertopf.

4. Sauté the vegetables until the onion is translucent. Place them around the roast, together with the tomatoes. Add the bouquet garni and enough wine to come about half way up the meat.

5. Cover the Römertopf with the lid and place it on the medium rack of the cold oven. Set the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Cook for 2 to 2.5 hours, or until tender. Salt lightly after 1 hour.

6. Remove the roast from the pot and cover to keep warm. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve into a saucepan, pressing down the vegetables to extract maximum flavor. Bring the liquid to a boil. Dissolve the cornstarch with 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water and whisk it into the liquid. Cook, whisking constantly, until the gravy thickens. Season with salt and pepper.

7. Remove the twine from the roast. Carve it and serve the slices and the gravy separately.

Makes 10 servings

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22 thoughts on “Comfort in a clay pot

  1. I have one of these clay pots hidden in one of the counters – now you make me want to grab it and make something in it. I have to admit I don’t dedicate much attention to it because of the soaking – I don’t really have a place for that (my Römertopf is quite big!) and 2 hours to wait before starting to cook :p Your roast looks wonderful.

    • I had the same thoughts about where to soak it. Then it hit me, I can soak both the lid and the bottom in my bathtub! Give it a try! It works!

  2. Thanks. I soak the pot the same way I store it, with the lid upside down nestled into the bottom. Re the time the manufacturer says 10 minutes soaking but I prefer a bit longer so you don’t have to wait two hours 🙂

  3. Yeah, the good old “Römertopf”! I was given one years ago. It is as well somewhere well hidden but I still love to cook that kind of “comfort food” that you described: roasts that need their time in the oven on their bed of ro… no vegetables to have later on the perfect consistence that you can eat them just with a spoon, no need to use a knive 😉
    I never would give this pot away… could be a good idea for easter…

    • Funny that many people have a Römertopf stored somewhere, admit they rarely use it but hold on to it.

  4. That looks so delicious! Great photo!

  5. I own 5 Romertopf cookers. They are something you can find in a thrift store and usually brand new as people don’t seem to get how great they are. Two are reserved just for baking bread (yes with the lid on). I use them all the time and they are now a deep dark color. I thought that no browning was necessary as the meat cooked in a Romertopf always comes out browned anyway.

    • Jan – Good point about the searing, thanks. I do this out of habit, as roast recipes usually call for it to make it more flavorful. But in fact I just looked at a book about claypot cooking and most of the roasts are placed into the pot right away. Next time I do a roast in the Römertopf I shall try it without and see whether it makes a difference.

      • Nadia – Did the searing make a difference? I am making my first roast in a romertopf tonight and want to make sure it has that signature brown/crunch on the outside as well as what I hope will be some awesome flavor inside! I am going to sear it in case I dont hear from you but will check back – dinner in 4.5 hours!

      • Yes I think it makes a difference although some people say it is not necessary to sear in a Römertopf. Just make sure you soak the pot and place it in the cold oven as described in the post. Good luck and enjoy your dinner.

  6. Pingback: German Cooking: Comfort in a Clay Pot | Young Germany

  7. I have used my Römertopf since 1976 here in the US. Always a hit with guests is a chicken. And so very easy to make. The other day I made Hungarian Goulash in it, which was superb! Thanks for (re)introducing folks to this gem.

  8. I purchased my clay pot in a charity shop some 10 yrs ago for the grand sum of $5. It sat up in the cupboard until this year when I made the decision I either use it or regift it to charity! How I wish I had started using it years ago, it just makes everything taste so amazing from chicken to cheap cuts of meat, even sausages thrown in with a can of soup come out as a full blown tasty casserole. It has now become a much loved kitchen appliance.

  9. My husband bought this for me at a resale shop for $20.00! I had never used one before and was super excited to cook with it. My first meal was a roasted chicken w/veggies (amazing dinner). Second meal I made a beef roast w/veggies (words cannot describe). Do you know how when you go to a restaurant & it smells so delicious then u order and the food isn’t great? Well, the roast tasted exactly like the way my home smelled… Scrumptious! Next, I couldn’t wait to try something crazy like Lasagna… I made it in 3 layers guessing if it would turn out to be a flop. It was without a doubt the most incredible Lasagna I have ever wrapped my lips around! Absolutely Amazing. I am making another Beef Roast tonight for dinner and my family will be so happy when they come home from school and work. If you have one of these Gems and you are not using it then u are really missing out on the best food EVER! I can’t wait till my apples get ripe for cobbler! And I have only owned this beauty for 3 weeks! The possibilities are endless! Btw, I am not a spokesperson or represent Romertopf. I am just a wife/mom/grandma that loves to cook and LOVES cooking toys! 😉

    • Amy, great that you enjoy your Römertopf so much. You have clearly cooked more dishes in it than I have, I only use it for pot roast and chicken. Lasagna sounds intriguing, would you share what you made and how you fit the lasagna sheets in the Römertopf? Thanks!

      • Nadia, it was so easy! I boiled the sheets as usual (take off burner when the boil), I cooked my hamburger and Italian Sausage, strained the meats. While straining in the same pan, I sautéed my minced garlic, fresh Basil, fresh Parsley, fresh Oregano (only because I have that growing in my garden) onions in olive oil then added the meat back in with sautéed. I added garlic pwdr, onion pwdr, fennel seeds (1-2 tsp. of each) take off the burner & put into a bowl, mixed it into 4 cans of the cheapest sauce money can buy while still cold from can. All the meats with the spices & garlic and onions fuses with the sauce when stirred. Using a new bowl, mix 1 container of Riccota Cheese, 1 container of small curd cottage cheese, one egg, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 tsp salt mix into cheese mixture. Grab a bag of Mozz Cheese & one bag of Fresh Parmisan Cheese. In my soaked Romertopf I add a large spoon of meat sauce on the bottom. Add 3 sheets of noodles (be careful they are still hot), spread cheese mixture on top of noodle sheets (it’s ok if noodles over lap), then add a few spoonfuls of sauce, sprinkle shredded mozzarella on top of sauce, sprinkle parmisan on top of mozzarella. Add 3 sheets of noodles and repeat till u have 3 layers. On the top layer put sauce and DO NOT sprinkle cheese. Bake at 400° for 1 hr. Then open oven and sprinkle cheese and put lid on and bake for another 20 – 30 min on 400°. Leave lid on and take out of oven and let it rest for 30 more min. This is the perfect time to get your garlic bread ready and baked. The lasagna will melt in your mouth and your family will think you are the BEST cook ever! Enjoy and let me know if you make this.

      • Thanks for the recipe Amy. I am planning to try this in the winter, it sounds like a perfect dish for a blizzard.

  10. We have also purchased two Schlemmertopf clay pots from a Charity Thrift store. Both were brand new one for 6$ and one for 3$. I am always on the lookout for a huge one! My Husband does all the cooking and would probably give up anything else in the kitchen before these. Absolutely amazing. He does and incredible potato dish in one and meat in the other. I find the cooking times to be much faster too. We are definitely going to try the lasagne! Thanks for sharing!

  11. I have a large one that I’ve never used! I bought it and put it on top of my refrigerator because of the size of it. Then my husband takes it and stuffs it in the cabinet where I can’t see it! I’m so glad I saw this post on the lasagna! I can’t wait to try it!

  12. Amy, what amounts of the herbs, onion, and olive oil do you use in your lasagna? Thanks!

    • Christine Soule Clark, So sorry for the slow response… I use about a teaspoon of each and sprinkle on the meat after I have drained the grease from the meat. Garlic powder, onion powder, fennel seed, oregano, sea salt or Kosher salt and a mix spice called Italian Seasoning. I also use 2 heaping tablespoons of minced garlic & olive oil (sauté 1 med onion in olive oil with minced garlic before adding meat and seasonings back to the pan). I buy minced garlic in a jar. Then I pour the jar or caned sauce on the meat and let it simmer. While simmering I add 1-2 Tbs of sugar. Let this simmer for about 20 min while noodles are cooling. I hope this helps. Let me know how it turns out. My family is bonkers for my lasagna. But they love everything I cook in my clay Romertopf! Just made beef stew and that was a hit too. I also made homemade Artisan Bread to compliment the beef stew.

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