It’s the pot’s fault.
The Italians call it a tegame di coccio or a pentola di terracotta. What cooks in it–a stew, a sauce, a roast– is, well, bliss. During the long cook, fragrance permeates your house. Of rabbit ala cacciatore. Of polpettone. Of lamb shoulder. You smell the meat, but also there is the unmistakable fragrance of hot terracotta. You smell the pot. It smells so good. Why I don’t know. It just does.
A few years ago my wife and I ate a seafood risotto at Miky Ristorante in Cinque Terre. It came to the table in a pentola di terracotta like the one shown above. Great presentation. Inside the restaurant I saw 50-60 of these pots in circulation, which, to me, indicated an impressive commitment to the cooking.
So it was the pot’s fault the other day when I did a rack of baby back ribs, a long, long cook until the meat was sliding off the ribs. Moderately unthinkable because, well, why would someone do that to baby back ribs, in the summertime? Ribs go on the grill in the summer.
You do it because you can, because for a couple days you have ribs to snack on, if you didn’t tuck into and demolish them completely while they were cooling in the pot. And because you have the pot.
Soak a new tegame di coccio in water overnight, they say, to get it ready for the job. Try to keep it off direct heat with a cast iron heat defuser. Clean it with salt or baking soda. Take care of it, and it will take care of you.
I heated the pan and browned these ribs, seasoned with salt and pepper, in olive oil with a couple cloves of diced garlic. While they browned I sliced and sauteed a large white onion in olive oil. After 15 minutes or so, with the ribs browned, I added the onion to the tegame, covered it, and cooked them on low-medium heat for another 15 minutes. At that point you want a half cup of broth and/or white wine and a handful of fresh rosemary. Cover the pot and go low-low heat or put the pot in the oven at 275.
Five or six hours later you got something good. We ate our ribs with oven roasted potatoes, and peas and artichoke hearts.