Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Romertopf: Does It Actually Do Anything?

I love the concept of the Romertopf: a moisture-promoting clay baking vessel that you soak in water and then start in a cold oven. Despite these idiosyncrasies, I'm not sure that using one is that different from not using one.

I'm babysitting a Romertopf for some friends who don't want to move with it (imagine it bouncing on the middle seat of a U-Haul), so I recently gave it a whirl with a roasted chicken, pictured above. Ever since reading a Cook's Illustrated article about poulette en cocotte, I've been dying to sacrifice crispy skin for a new level of juiciness and flavor, and it seemed like a perfect time to do so.

But let's be honest. No chicken I ever make will surpass bird I got from Lionette's and then roasted, uncovered, in a good old fashioned iron skillet. When it comes to roasting chicken, I peaked at age 28, and I'm okay with that.

However, I only tried the Romertopf once, so perhaps I haven't given it a fair shake. And there are a few things that I really like about it, even if it didn't blow my mind on that single occasion. One is that, because it's made from clay rather than metal, it's in keeping with the Rastafarian food laws known as Ital. The other is this recommendation from the 'topf website:

"Workout with your favorite celebrity, play with the kids, or soak in the tub for the 45 minutes to an hour the Romertopf needs to cook your meal to perfection."

Maybe that's what I did wrong.

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