As the weather gets colder, one pot meals are my go-to comfort food. One of my favorite one pot meals is clay pot rice, and it's easily one of the simplest, most delicious one-pot meals around. As the name implies, clay pot rice is traditionally cooked in a clay pot over a charcoal stove, though most restaurants will use a gas burner these days.
Why a clay pot? Well, it's great for slow cooking as it distributes heat slowly and retains it for a long, long time, keeping the dish hot as you eat. It's a nice piece of cookware to have around, but if you have a small kitchen with limited storage space, it's not essential: a good enameled cast iron pan will do just as well.
Just like a clay pot, enameled cast iron pots retain heat well and are great for slow cooking. Unlike clay pots, they are more versatile and can easily go in a pre-heated oven with no problems. Try putting a room temperature clay pot in a hot oven and there's a big risk of it cracking. Enameled cast iron is also great for producing my favorite part of the dish: that crispy browned rice at the bottom.
There are many varieties of clay pot rice. Chinese sausage with vegetables is a classic combo. So is chopped bone-in chicken with mushrooms, or even frog legs. For this version, I wanted to use an ingredient that's not typical of Chinese food, but is delicious nonetheless: hot Italian sausage. It may seem out of place in a Chinese recipe, but this is a dish that's all about simple, easy to find, inexpensive ingredients, and once you've seasoned it with a bit of soy sauce and fish sauce, it's right at home in the casserole.
I start by marinating the sausage and thin strips of chicken with ginger, garlic, sugar, cornstarch, Chinese wine, soy sauce, and fish sauce. To this mixture, I also add some rehydrated dried shiitake and wood ear mushrooms for more intense savory flavor (fresh mushrooms would work just fine if you don't want to take the time to soak dried mushrooms).
To cook the rice, I first rinse long-grain rice in water, then add it to the bottom of the Dutch oven, letting it soak in fresh water for about half an hour. This helps it cook evenly down the line.
Once the rice is soaked, the rest of the dish is a snap: I just add the raw marinated meats and mushrooms on top, bring the whole thing to a simmer on the stovetop, cover, and let it cook until the rice is fully cooked and crisp, and the meats are cooked through. Easy, right?
As the pot cooks, I stir up a simple sauce of sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, oyster sauce, and fish sauce to moisten everything up once it's finished.
I spoon the fresh sauce on top of the rice...
...then stir it all together along with some sliced scallions.
Wanna get a glimpse of the best part?
Would you look at that? One pot, no separate cooking steps, and you get such an amazing range of comforting textures and flavors. No wonder this is such a time-honored technique. Here's to many more cold days this winter. I know how I'll be spending them.