Another excuse to use mini pots: Baked Feta & Cherry Tomatoes en Cocotte

Like most super cool people, I love mini versions of things.  So you can guess that when the opportunity came up for me to buy a couple of mini cocotte pots when I was traveling through Germany, I was all over it.

Hilarious side note: a cocotte is defined as A) a female prostitute and B) a shallow individual baking dish.  In this case, we’re referring to definition B.

Cooking dishes en cocotte is basically an excuse to make a super cute appetizer with a fabulous presentation.  So if you want to wow your guests at your next dinner party, make plans to use these little guys for the first course.  There are a number of different ways you can use the mini pots including delicious savoury or sweet souffles, baked egg dishes with a rich sauce, or garlicky roasted potatoes.  Today, we’re going to use the mini pots as our cooking vessel for a baked feta appetizer.  Basically, anything that you can bake in the oven can be baked in your mini cocottes as individual portions for you and your guests.

This is a very easy recipe with few ingredients that basically cannot go wrong – music to my ears when planning an appetizer dish for your dinner party…and it’s vegetarian!  I first had this dish in Germany when my boyfriend’s step-mother, who is a vegetarian, prepared it as one of the side dishes for a family dinner.  The baking dish was pretty much cleaned out within the first few minutes of hitting the table – and all by non-vegetarians!

To start, you need the following items and ingredients:

  • 2-4 Mini cocotte dishes
  • Oven
  • Large slab of Greek (or Macedonian) feta cheese
  • 5 Cherry or grape tomatoes per dish (just get a full container, they’re good for you!)
  • Few sprigs of fresh Thyme
  • Few sprigs of fresh Rosemary
  • 2-3 Cloves of garlic
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fresh baguette

Now this isn’t one of those recipes that will make you buy a whole package of fresh herbs, make you use 2 sprigs, and then dump the rest. I love using fresh herbs just because they’re so much more aromatic and they impart more flavour.  However, you can definitely replace the fresh herbs with dried ones if you so choose.

If you do want to use fresh herbs and don’t know what to do with the rest, here’s a tip:

Just place the rest of the fresh herbs flat on a sheet tray and spread them out.  Let them sit on your kitchen counter for the day and voila, you have more dried herbs to add to your collection!

Another tip for this or any recipe that uses garlic (which is in every dish I make!):

You may already know that to get the skin off garlic cloves easily, you can place a large knife on its flat side and apply pressure to crush the clove a bit.  The skin then comes off very easily.  What you may not know, which is something I just learned, is that to get more flavour from the garlic cloves, let them rest for about 5 minutes after you’ve taken the skin off.  Who knew!

Now let’s assemble and bake our little mini pots of heavenly cheese.

Take a good chunk of the feta cheese – I like to use Macedonian feta because it’s softer and creamier and has a wonderful texture when warmed up, but it’s totally up to you – and place it inside each mini cocotte.  Then add about 4-5 grape or cherry tomatoes all around the feta.  Take the sprigs of thyme and with your thumb and forefinger, run your fingers down the stem in the opposite direction of the leaves.  This should take the leaves off easily and you can do the same with the rosemary sprigs.  Chop the herbs up a little if you like or just sprinkle them as is on top of the feta and the tomatoes.  Now that the garlic cloves have rested, you can mince them into little pieces to sprinkle evenly in each mini cocotte.  Add some salt and cracked pepper on top of the whole masterpiece and finally drizzle with some beautiful extra virgin olive oil.  That’s it!

Now throw – or maybe gently place – the mini cocottes in the oven and bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.  It won’t take long at all to bake these little cheese gems so keep an eye on the oven to make sure they don’t turn into cheese soup.  But even if they do, they will be delicious and that’s exactly what you meant to do and no one will know or complain!  It’s cheese for goodness sake!

Serve that gooey pile of salty goodness en cocotte with some freshly sliced baguette crostinis (basically thinly sliced baguette that’s been toasted) and you have yourself a tasty, sophisticated-looking, yet super easy appetizer!

More tips and recipes to come but for now, get your cheese on and let me know how it goes!

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