Recently I became the owner of my first cocotte. A cocotte is something that one will find in every traditional French home. I am not thinking of a cocotte as they called a prostitute during the Second Empire nor am I thinking of the nickname that children have given to a chicken. No, I am thinking of a cocotte!
A cocotte is a cast iron cooking pot, better known as a Dutch oven in English. In France it usually comes in red or black. It is enameled on the inside and it is - obvisously - terribly heavy. It is a basic element in traditional French cooking and everybody will remember that their Maman and their Mamie had one in the kitchen.
It is a left-over from a time when there was plenty of time. Plenty of time to let food cook slowly, to prepare the food hours in advance, to stay at home and watch over the cooking pot, to make roasts, stews and casseroles.
My first attempt at traditional French cooking was a bœuf bourguignon which had to cook slowly for no less than 3.5 hours! First I cut and chopped the meat and the carrots, then I added bouillon and red wine and rosemary and thyme, and that was really it! At least for another three hours when I had to add the mushrooms....
This is something that you can only do at the weekend, and considering the time put into the cooking I had decided to share the casserole and a big bowl of mashed potatoes with a group of friends ! And lots of red wine. Aren't French cooking traditions just wonderful? And if somebody at the end of the meal had called me cocotte that would have been quite alright! It is a tender name given to my small as well as big girls.