Saturday, March 20, 2010

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Vegetable Tian a la Barefoot Contessa

This weekend I had the pleasure of hanging out with a few of my favorite Boston bloggers (buzz buzz!) and their significant others at a fab potluck hosted by a blogger also known as Mrs. Corn.

The last time I went to a potluck, I put a few extra pounds on everyone's waist by bringing the most decadent savory bread pudding ever.  This time I decided I was going to be good and bring Ina Garten's vegetable tian, from her Barefoot in Paris cookbook.

Don't be fooled by the mid-prep photo: the tian was topped with gruyere.  Sure, I'm trying to be "good," but I don't want to be too good.

A tian is a layered vegetable casserole topped with cheese -- some liken it to ratatouille, and others to a gratin.  I think of it as healthiness hidden under a layer of gooey awesomeness.

Here's what you need:

  • Good olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, cut in half and sliced (I ended up using 4 small onions)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound medium round potatoes (Yukon preferably), unpeeled
  • 3/4 pound zucchini (I also added some squash)
  • 1 1/4 pounds medium tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs
  • 2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grate

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with olive oil. In a medium saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the onions over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.  (I actually made a gently-sloped well with the onions, putting a bit more along the edge of the baking dish to give the outer ring of vegetables a bit more height.)

Slice the potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes (and squash, if you're using it) in 1/4-inch thick slices. By the way, eggplant would also work well for this dish -- the more variety the merrier.

(To get the perfect slices, I used a mandoline, which, incidentally, is a super fun unitasker.  I enjoyed mandolining so much I stood in front of my fridge for a good minute thinking about what else I could put through the mandoline.  I'm a pathetic little child, I know.)

Layer the vegetables alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly, making only 1 layer.  (Chant with me: Potato, tomato, squash, zucchini, potato, tomato, squash, zucchini . . . .)

Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and thyme sprigs and drizzle with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil.  (It's possible that I might have used a tablespoon of butter mixed with a tablespoon of olive oil.  But don't tell Ina.)

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  (Unless you cover your dish very tightly, you'll probably need to add 5 or 10 minutes to the baking time.  Next time I make this recipe, I'll either parboil the potatoes slightly beforehand to reduce the cooking time or weigh down the aluminum foil with a cookie sheet to create a tighter seal, thus allowing the potatoes to steam more effectively.  Putting a tomato slice directly above a potato slice also helps, I think, as the tomato juices help steam the potato.)

Uncover the dish, remove the thyme sprigs, sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake for another 30 minutes until browned. Serve warm.

The tian had a great texture: the gruyere was gooey and savory, the potatoes crispy, and the other vegetables tender and flavorful.  It was spring in casserole form.

And a nice complement to the other yumminess at the potluck: a ridiculously good beef chili and cornbread (prepared by our hostess), pasta salad, and sausagey muffins.  And a great starter to the most important part of the meal: the brownies, cupcakes, and cookies we had for dessert.

I'll definitely make this recipe again, since it was pretty, fun (mandoline! whee!!!), and a great way of using up vegetables (particularly when our CSA subscription begins).


charms March 22, 2010 at 9:27 AM  

It was so good! Thanks for making something vegetarian friendly :)

michelle @ blissful musings March 22, 2010 at 5:15 PM  

That looks delicious! You did a great job!

Valen March 23, 2010 at 2:53 PM  

Looks great, I love roasted vegetables!

Mrs. Hot Cocoa March 23, 2010 at 3:00 PM  

Thanks for the kind comments, all! The leftover tian was amazing the next day: I topped it with a fried egg and ate it with toast.

Anonymous,  March 26, 2010 at 12:18 AM  

Hi! It's Laura! This looks really good and I have a million potatoes and two zucchini to use up. I may need to borrow your mandoline.

Rubber Gloved Philosopher March 24, 2011 at 9:27 AM  

That looks yummy!! It reminds me of a great Patricia Wells' recipe which features a roasted rosemary and garlic-laced leg of lamb which sits atop a tian of potato,& tomato... letting its goodness mingle. mmmm

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