Cazuelas, terra cotta dishes, have been used in Spain for literally thousands of years -- from the humblest home to the grandest manor house. Terra cotta is rustic earthenware, and can be used for sizzling hot tapas or a bowl of crips olives.
A 4.5-inch diameter dish is a handy size to serve tapas snacks like almonds, caper berries or Spanish olives. Put an extra one beside the other dishes for olive pits or stems.
The glaze on the cazuelas is lead-free and the cazuelas are safe for the oven. One of our favorite tapas to serve in these dishes is Gambas al Ajillo - small shrimp sizzled in olive oil with garlic and cayene pepper flakes! We simply heat the oil in the oven, add the ingredients to cook for a few minutes, and serve right in the cazuela dish.
How to Cure Your New Cazuela for Cooking:
If you are planning on cooking with your cazuela, you will need to soak and cure it using the following directions.
Soak the entire dish in water to cover for 12 hours. Drain and wipe dry. Rub the unglazed bottom with a cut clove of garlic (we are not sure how the garlic works, but why argue with tradition?) Fill the dish with water to 1/2 inch below the rim, then add 1/2 cup of vinegar. Place the dish on a flame-tamer over low heat and slowly bring the water to a boil (no flame tamer? Crumple a sheet of aluminum foil and create a ring that you place over your burner to create about an inch of space between the heat and the cazuela).
Let the liquid boil down until only about 1/2 cup remains. Cool slowly and wash. Your cazuela is ready for use - the garlic has created a seal. This technique has been used since the Middle Ages. It seasons the pot, kills bacteria and hardens the unglazed parts.
Especially if you intend to use the cazuela to cook strong flavored fish or seafood, after soaking, rub the inside of the base with olive oil and put into a preheated 300 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the heat and let cool. Either method will strengthen your cazuela.
To clean, soak in sudsy water and scrub with a soft brush to remove any hardened food.
If you have not used the cazuela for an extended period of time, you may need to re-cure it before use.