March 6, 2011
Although at times it seems a bit foolish, my average weekend doesn’t feel complete unless I find something to bring home from a thrift store. I have high standards, of course, so it can’t be just any old thing. I follow the advice of William Morris. Everything in my house is either useful or beautiful. A mini clawfoot bathtub holds my business cards. A glass soap-holder-thing in the shape of two cupped hands holds my favorite jewelry. A large white serving dish shaped like a dahlia hangs on my wall along with a random collection of beautiful plates and oversized forks and spoons. I love finding woven boxes, candle holders, tea bowls, linens, wire baskets, bakeware, mugs, juice glasses, bowls, mirrors, statuary, and demitasse cups. It’s as though I run a boarding house for wayward objects. I find a permanent home for the lost and the rejected.
This weekend, I found a home for a cocotte, which is pretty funny if you know the word play behind it. When I saw this humble off-white pot, maybe 6-inches wide, I immediately thought of eggs en cocotte. I didn’t have anything to bake eggs in, and this funky little saucepot would nicely do.
I also wanted to untangle this mystery of the cocotte, a charming French word so colorful I wish I could pin it down and dissect it. Cocotte means “little hen,” which explains “coq au vin,” but not poulet. In this case, cocotte refers to a small casserole you’d use to both bake and serve food. In yet another twist, cocotte also means prostitute. An etymology dictionary tells me that cocotte as a cooking vessel was around long before it was applied to a woman dealing in sex — which means that the French used the cooker to describe the hooker, or something like that. In any case, eggs en cocotte is luxurious and remarkably easy — which I suppose takes the definition to yet another unintended level.
Also, can’t you imagine a trollop named Chanterelle? A strumpet named after the mushroom shaped like a trumpet? Or maybe that’s just me.
Eggs en Cocotte
Find a small cocotte in which to heat things up. Coat the inside with butter, fleur de sel, and rosemary. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Steam a handful of spinach in water, sauté chanterelles in a hunk of butter, and grate un petit pile of cheese.
Pat the spinach dry and put it in the cocotte, adding the cheese, a bit of heavy cream, and finally the eggs — however many you please. Place the cocotte in a baking dish with enough boiling water to submerge it halfway. Bake for 15 minutes and remove.
Spray a few slices of baguette with olive oil and place in the broiler until crisp and golden. Put all generosity aside. If you can, plan to be home by yourself, which is always the most pleasurable way to eat eggs, especially ones this sensual.