Any kind of fish may find its way into a cotriade. If small, tender-fleshed fish—pilchard, sardines, smelts—are included, they should be whole and added only 5 or 6 minutes before removal from the flame. Originally, the smoky flavor from the bonfire over which the kettle of fish was cooked no doubt enhanced the rough, direct, soul-warming character of the thing. Cider is the usual accompaniment—some readers may share my preference for a Muscadet or other light, dry, young white wine.
One of the particularities of a cotriade lies in the liquid’s being undersalted. The fish, after being removed from the pot, is then salted by pouring over a ladle or so of the bouillon in which has been dissolved a handful of coarse sea salt. The heavily salted liquid is drained off immediately, and the process is repeated three or four times. The fish absorbs the salt with a certain avidity and must not be left long in contact with the liquid. I much prefer, rather than salting the fish before serving, to distribute small bowls or ramekins of the salty bouillon to each guest, along with others containing the vinegar-crushed pepper mixture; the ritual aspect is attractive and the individual may, dipping first in one, then in the other, season to taste, biteful by biteful.