Home > Focus on Japan 2012, Hibarigaoka > Romertopf Chicken

Romertopf Chicken

May 13th, 2012

When I was a kid and our mom had to work nights, we took responsibility for our own cooking, and one of our usual meals was Romertopf clay-pot chicken. Romertopf is an unglazed ceramic cooking pot which does a great job of keeping juices in–I had just forgotten how well it can do that.

When my brother and his wife left Japan recently, they left us their Romertopf; they had acquired one small enough to fit into a Japanese microwave/convection oven. It was not as big as the ones we used to use, but it can be big enough.

Eager to try it out, I went to our local supermarket and ordered a whole chicken–they don’t sell them whole in Japan usually, and this one took 4 days. Now, my sister-in-law warned me that the pot would not take more than a 1.5 kg chicken, and so I tried to order one. The store guy warned me that the chickens they could order would be bigger than that, so I just asked him to order the smallest one he could get.

It turned out to be a 2.5 kg chicken.

And, as expected, it came nowhere close to fitting in the pot. I still wanted to try it out, though, so I cut off the neck (they had left about 6 inches of it), the wings, and a bit of the tail; I also cut off the legs and thighs, but didn’t leave those out. With everything trimmed, I could fit the torso in the pot, and though it was a tight fit, I was able to put the legs and thighs back in, albeit reversed.

One of the tricks, I think, is to leave the torso cavity open, stuffed with onions and spices, so I did not want to just chop the bird up and pile the pieces in–they would have fit better, but keeping the chicken as whole as possible was optimum.

So, after pouring on some soy sauce, brandy, and red wine, then adding the same spices I put in the chicken (basil, garlic & onion powder, celery salt) on top, with some paprika (Spanish pimentón in this case) for appearance.

Rom Ready

As you can see, it was bulging out. I could fit the cover on, but obviously there was not much space left. I could only fit in a few small potatoes, instead of several along with some carrots.

Figuring it was the best I could do, I put it into the oven–even with a small pot, it barely fit–and set it for 90 minutes at 175 C. Or, for 60 min at 180 C, as the oven couldn’t be set for more than an hour, and only could be adjusted to 10-degree intervals. After 60 minutes, I set it for another 30; you’re supposed to cook for 80 minutes, take the top off, then cook for another 10 minutes.

Of course, the oven was so small that I had to remove the whole thing to take the top off, and so all the heat escaped; I cooked for 15 minutes rather than 10 with the top off.

But boy, did it ever work!

Rom Cooked01

Rom Cooked02

Alas, the photos (different colors as they were taken by different cameras) don’t do it justice. It looked good enough from the outside, but when I cut up the meat, it was the juiciest chicken I remember ever seeing. Just fabulous. Again, this photo doesn’t do the spread justice:

Rom Table

We went in for seconds and thirds, eating nearly the whole chicken.

Next time, I want to try a 2 kg chicken, if I can get one just the right size. One of the nice things about Romertopf, however, is that it is really hard to get wrong; it’s very forgiving, and consistently good.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2012, Hibarigaoka Tags: by
  1. Troy
    May 14th, 2012 at 05:49 | #1

    You didn’t go to costco for the chicken?

    I was mostly in my 20s in Japan and didn’t cook much of anything — Peacock in Azabu Juban started selling imported “Taco Dinner Kit” things so I started making tacos occasionally, plus I made spaghetti since National Azabu sold Prego.

    I couldn’t really read the instructions on how to make the Japanese mix stuff, so I was kinda hosed anyway.

    But in my 40s I’ve started cooking more and love to make my own tomato sauces for chili, spaghetti, and pizza, and if you have a big-ass canister of taco seasoning from Costco all you need is the shells to make tacos for a year or three.

    Here in the US we have Trader Joes and man I buy like 30 things there all the time — moving to Japan now would suck without these choices.

    So how has the Tokyo food situation changed since 2000?

    I remember when Arby’s on Shibuya’s prime センター街 finally gave up the ghost, LOL. It was kinda dumb eating there all the time when there was a really awesome tempura place across the street, sigh.

  2. kensensei
    May 14th, 2012 at 13:16 | #2

    No whole chickens sold in Japan? It sounds strange to me. Convection ovens were uncommon when I lived in China, but whole chickens were readily available.

    Like you, Luis, I eventually bought a small convection oven in China to roast the chicken; the results, however, were not as successful as yours. The chicken cooked unevenly; burnt on the outside and uncooked inside. Very disappointing…


  3. Jim
    May 16th, 2012 at 07:16 | #3

    I get whole uncooked chickens from Costco as well as Cornish game hens. Two game hens would fit perfectly in your pot with plenty of room for vegetables. However, I’m leery of the Sakura brand chickens Costco also sells. They are from Singapore and I just haven’t done enough research on them. They may be fine.

  4. Luis
    May 16th, 2012 at 09:38 | #4

    As we are roughly equidistant from about 3 different Costcos and all are a good hour’s drive away, we don’t go all the time–we’re probably going next weekend, though, and so of course I’ll check that out.

    Troy: the food situation since 2000? That’s kind of tough, I don’t usually differentiate from that point. I *do* remember the situation since the late 80’s, in which any foreign brand or import was hard to find and usually quite expensive. Though, come to think of it, in 2000, we didn’t have Costco, nor I believe Amazon.com. But I did use the Foreign Buyers Club back then. Since then, I have noted that more stuff once only available at Costco started showing up in supermarkets here (not Kirkland stuff, of course, but other items). Today, I don’t feel like there’s much I want that I cannot get somehow. When I went back to the U.S., I used to haul back tons of stuff I could not get here; now, not so much.

    Ken: it’s the pot that makes all the difference. I don’t see them sold at Amazon in Japan, but you can absolutely get a Romertopf pot in the U.S., easy. It’s unglazed; you never wash it with soap, and before you use it, you soak it in water for at least 20 minutes. You clean out the chicken, coat the inside with the spices (we use sweet basil, fine herbs, garlic salt, and onion powder), then add chopped onions (usually 1/8 cuts) to fill the cavity. Then, put the chicken in the pot, wash it with maybe 1/4 cup of soy sauce, add a splash of liquor or wine to taste, then use the same spices to cover the chicken, adding a final dusting of paprika. Add carrots and small potatoes to the outside. Then cover it, bake at 175 C for 80 minutes, then take off the top and leave it for another 10 minutes. Hard to go wrong.

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