Perhaps you’ve noticed my long absence here. I’ve been so busy with winery related endeavors and before that, the holidays, that I haven’t had a moment to write anything. But I am dying to tell you about my new crush, so I am making time today!
It all started when my sister-in-law gave me a wonderful book for Christmas, one that I’ve had my eye on for a while. It’s Yvettte Van Boven’s Home Made Winter. I have Home Made Summer and thoroughly enjoy it, so when I unwrapped this gem I was delighted.
At first pass there were several intriguing recipes that caught my eye, one of which was a Bean Cocotte with Roasted Garlic. I love white beans and this one looked charming – especially since the recipe was hand drawn and the dishes she suggests baking it in are “Cocottes” or mini casseroles, one per person.
The only trouble was that I didn’t own any of those little casseroles, sweet as they are. The minute they were on my radar I naturally saw them in every other store I went in. But then I had to debate with myself….do I really need these? Couldn’t I just make the same dish in a larger casserole as usual? And if I bought them where would I keep them? My cupboards already overflow!
So I didn’t jump in right away, but the other day I gave in and did it. I was at Winco, which is not my favorite place to shop but it’s good for “center of the store” items, as a friend says. And also for avocados, I can’t buy local or organic avocados no matter what, so I might as well get the best price on them. Anyway, I digress. I noticed they had little red Cocottes and they were only $4 a piece. Okay, so that’s $20 I didn’t need to spend, but when I saw a vintage set of 4 Le Crueset Cocottes on Pinterest this morning for $95, I felt like I’d made a pretty good buy after all. (Okay the vintage Le Crueset ones are way cooler, but I can live with it.)
Anyway, once I had my set of five cocottes in the house (It would have made more sense to buy six, keeping in mind future dinner parties, but they only had five, so that’s what I bought. It’s the perfect number for my family anyway.) I was smitten. So was my 10-year-old daughter – she kept exclaiming how cute they are. They are pretty darn cute, its true.
As I got going on Yvette’s recipe I saw a few changes I wanted to make right away – sautéing the vegetables before assembly for instance – and later I thought of several possible variations. If it wasn’t Meat Free Monday I may have added sausage. Spinach or kale would be nice too. Though I must say these were utterly delicious just this way too. Like many casserole dishes, I found this one to be even better the next day when I had the leftovers for lunch. You could bake the cocottes the first day without the bread crumb and Gruyère topping, then refrigerated overnight and bake again with the toppings – just until warmed through and browned.
And lest I thought my newly acquired Cocottes wouldn’t get put to enough use, I also spent most of our dinner that night brainstorming a list of other dishes where they could be used – spinach gratin, macaroni and cheese, french onion soup….the list goes on. Really you could put any casserole type of dish in these little guys and you instantly up its charm quotient. Not to mention it’s terrific portion control!