Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cooking on a La Cotta




I don’t think I would normally be inclined to tell you what I had for dinner (I prefer not to make people jealous ;-) But this dinner was both special and peculiar. A few months ago, in an antique shop in a little Queensland country town, we bought an odd looking Italian cooking implement. At least that’s what the instructions said it’s intended purpose was! Basically, it’s two oval shaped, shallow clay pans wired together and is operated with plastic handles. I’m not sure what actually possessed us to buy it but we brought it home, admired it some more and stuck it in a drawer where it has remained until last night.

La Cotta (or La Bisquera) is a cooking implement from Italy made from volcanic rocks that promises to remove fats and harsh acids. It claims to transform economic cuts of meat to create a tenderness and flavour that would only be achieved through slow cooking. This is good news since slow cooked meat is supposed to be a healthier alternative to barbequed. Additionally the instructions sold it as ‘one of the world’s best cooking utensils’ that our cooking would ‘rival anything prepared in the haute cuisine kitchens of the world’ and we would be cooking on a ‘natural material’ that is ‘compounded from a secret formula of five volcanic rocks’. Sounds interesting doesn’t it?

So we followed the instructions, rinsing the pan then placing it on a low gas flame and adding the steak that had been seasoned with a herb rub. After the blood had risen to the surface on one side, I flipped it until the same appeared on the other side and voila the meat was cooked.

Given the odd smell that was coming out of the contraption during cooking I was very dubious. Actually I expected the steak to be dry so I made a mushroom sauce to go with it. To my surprise, the steak was juicy even though it had been dry cooked and it was very tender. I’m not sure wether to attribute that to La Bisquera, a good cut of meat or just my cooking prowess, but I suspect that this secret volcanic rock is doing something, because I really haven’t come across a thick piece of beef that was cooked just right in about 10 minutes. But one test is never enough, so over the coming weeks we shall have to repeat this experiment with various cuts.
Now if you are interested in obtaining your very own La Bisquera, there seems to be heaps available online. Apparently there are many in closets around the world, owned by people scratching their heads and going ‘what do I do with this?’ If that’s you, I have attached the instructions that came with ours so that you can give it a go yourself. Or perhaps you already knew how great this hunk of rock was and you wouldn’t mind sharing your experiences and allowing us a glimpse into your world of haute cuisine!







38 comments:

  1. That's so cool! I want to try cooking with one of those now :D

    - Sagan

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  2. I'm with Sagan! This is a very cool tool...I'm going to Italy in about a week, I wonder if I could snag one there! Thanks for all this great info! I would love to see the finished product too!

    ~rupal

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  3. Wow, sounds very neat. My mom is taking me to Italy this fall for my 30th b-day. I will have to look for it. Maybe it will inspire me to cook more.

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  4. Sagan - There's plenty around :-)
    Rupal & Kristi - Mmmmm gelati on every street corner.....I would be interested to know if they are available in Italy. They don't seem to sell them new anywhere else!

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  5. I have (like many other people) had one of these in my cupboard for years since I inherited it from an eccentric grand aunt!! Thank you so much for going to the trouble of posting the instructions!!

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  6. We grabbed one from an Op. Shop years ago and will give these instructions a go, thanks for putting them up.

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  7. I just bought a La Cotta at a local flea market but it had no instructions. It looked like it was for stove top cooking but I was not sure.

    Thanks so much for posting the instructions!!

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  8. I just picked one up tonight from Valu Village
    for $4 with the same instructions you so kindly posted for others.
    I'm looking forward to trying it out.


    Cheers from Thunder Bay.

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  9. Thanks so much for posting the information 'the power of the web' We picked our La Cotta up at a flee market in the uk five years ago with no instructions and always wondered what this was.It sat in cupboards and on shelves and then this morning I thought, lets see if I can find out more, and there it was. We are going to try cooking with it tonight. Thanks so much. Ian and Paulene

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  10. I would like to read the instructions as I have one, but they were too small. I tried to print them out but could not. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
    ALice

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  11. I cant thank you enough for posting the instructions! I am falling in love with steak all over again! kathi

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  12. Alice,
    Just click on each page to enlarge, THEN print.

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  13. Thanks SO MUCH for posting instructions!! I just spent more than 1/2 hour reading so many what-is-this posts everywhere; I knew it needed to be wet, and I figured it wasn't for turning, or juices would spill, but your instructions were really helpful.

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  14. I just purchased one today from a St. Vinnies store for $15. It's new AND with the instructions!

    A few months ago I purchased from another Op Shop, a larger casserole sized La Bisquera for the princely sum of $6. It was also new! I recently 'christened' it by cooked chicken breasts in it just 2 weeks ago. Wow, different! Some herbs and garlic were all I needed to make one very succulent chicken dish. The fat just melted away off the meat into globs and was more like poached - rather than baked in look and flavour.

    I'm now very pleased with my 2nd purchase and am looking forward to collecting more of the set!

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  15. I also have one of these that has been in my pantry for a long time. It has the original instuctions with it. I am a bit weary on using it. It is still in the original package. I guess I will keep reading and see if I want to keep it or give it up..xo

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  16. I'd love to try a La Cotta out!

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  17. Hi
    I'm the proud owner of four La Bisquera's and have been usung them for years. I have found placing herbs and spices in lacotta and cooking till fragrant before adding meat to be even more flavour some. Fish also goes really well though don't use the same bisquera as meat i'm afraid you shall have to find another one. The more you use it the better the flavour as it embeds into the surface.
    Happy cooking.

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  18. Hi,

    Became a proud owner of a La Cotta yesterday. Found it at Goodwill for $7.00. That makes five clay pot and cookers in the house. Yum!
    Didn't know what a treasure I had until I read this article and the instructions enclosed (that I printed). Thank you so much for your kindness.
    And thank you to Phil and Anonymous who responded with wonderful recipe ideas. Can't wait to try it and the recipes. I wonder if cooking fish in parchment would work? Or, maybe, I'll just have to find another one.
    Now I'm on the hunt. :)

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  19. BONJOUR,
    AVEZ VOUS LE MODE D'EMPLOIE EN FRANCAIS ????
    CAR DIFFICILE POUR MOI EN ANGLAIS.
    SI NON COMMENT L'OBTENIR ?????
    MERCI

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  20. Mine is brand new,I bought it in a Flea market this way... Was wondering how to use it... Did not have directions with it, so now I know and I will be giving it a try soon !!!
    Thanks for sharing !!!
    BTW... Mine is stamped on both sides "Made in Italy" so you should be able to buy one in Italy !!

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  21. I knew the minute I saw this yesterday in a thrift store that I had found a great thing. Can't wait to try it tonight with some venison that is thawing.
    Andrea
    Floyd, Va.

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  22. Wow. Wow. and another Wow,,,, I am excited. I just bought one today at a garage sale. 2.00 dollars. No instructions. Lady said it was in a house that her son bought. It appears to have never been used. She did not know what it was....maybe Greek. I love to cook and experiment and treasure foreign foods and utensils. Now I will try to enlarge and copy instructions. Wish me luck. I have an electric stove.... Grants Pass, Oregon

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  23. I just found this La Cotta at my husbands Grandmothers auction . It was going out with the trash. How old is it ????

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  24. I just bought one for a chef friend at a second hand store, wrapping it up now! i'll link him to your blog, thanks!

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  25. I have a La Cotta and instructions in French, Italian and German, besides English. I do not know how to put them here.
    I bought it in Barcelona, thrift store, but new.

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  26. I just bought one today at a Goodwill for 2.99US. I'm delighted to know how to use it!! :-) Did you ever try chicken in it? Hmmm... and mmm!

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  27. My grandson found one in the basement of an old home he purchased to fix up. It is oval with two stubs on the ends but that is all we have. No handles no other piece that is supposed to go with it. We would like to know how to clean it, you certainly could not put anything in it to cook. Can you cook it on an electric range???

    Thanks,
    Marie

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  28. I just found one of these in my aunts house. I knew it was unique and old but had no idea what it was. Thank you very much for the instructions and information. I, like Marie would like to know how to clean it and can i use it on an electric stove.

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  29. Judy said....
    Just found my la cotta today. I didnt know what it was but thought it was unique. I have both pieces with no metal handle. Can you still cook with it?

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  30. Found two round styles today at a garage sale and will use one for meat and one for fish as recommended in an earlier post. What fun

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  31. I have this exact piece for sale. It is brand new, never used, but has a little chip but does not affect the sealing, no wire wrap or handle. What is it worth?

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    1. Oh, you said no wire wrap or handle. Then it is worth nothing. It is garbage. What you have a two rocks from italy.

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  32. So I tried some chicken in one of these la cotta cookers I found at a thrift store. What a piece of junk. Even after cleaning, it smells like dirt. The food sticks, and picks up odd dirt odors from the cooker. It's junk. I suppose that's why you don't see them for sale any more. I would not waste money buying another one. The previous owner appears to have cooked a single thing in it and then promptly put it in storage.

    Now I see why. Yuck.

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  33. I am vegetarian. I will use mine somehow. Maybe pizza ???I use vegan cheese. Mine is used. I will have to hopefully wash out any meat junk in it. The man told me it was for omlettes, and quesadillas. Duh ! Maybe I should just donate it back ? I don't do animal ingredients.

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  34. Bought one of these today at the flea market for 50 cents! Lady didn't know what it was and neither did I but was intrigued by it. So good old google, and I found this page. Thank you so much for posting the instructions. Meg

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  35. Any idea where I might obtain the metal handles that it is supposed to come with?

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  36. This comment has been removed by the author.

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