On the Tunisian island of Djerba, an amphora-shaped unglazed terracotta pot called a gargoulette is stuffed with fish or meat, saffron, herbs, olive oil, and vegetables, then left in the embers that warm the water at the bathhouse to cook slowly while the women bathe. The cook brings the pot home, her husband hacks off the top and the handles, then she pours the food into a ceramic bowl to serve. The flavor of food cooked in clay is special. Of course, the pot, being broken, is discarded, which makes sense in Djerba, where pots cost about twenty cents apiece. I substitute a three-quart Chinese clay pot and don't break it open; I use it again and again for its flavor-enhancing quality
A Romertopf brick oven can be substituted. It will provide the same fabulously moist quality—and you get to save your gargoulette for another day.
The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert. Copyright © 2003 by Paula Wolfert. Photographs copyright © by Christopher Hirsheimer. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.