French Fare: What Is A Tian?

What is a tian? Just because you're layering things in a casserole doesn't mean you can't infuse your meal with a little aesthetic and flair.

A tian itself is a no-frills round earthenware dish that goes from the oven to the table. It's usually filled with layered, overlapping vegetables and sometimes a sauce, baked in the oven (sometimes with breadcrumbs and cheese) and served as a main or side dish. The French, whose cuisine has been UNESCO-certified as part of its intangible cultural heritage, opt for simple preparations that let the ingredients shine. Minimalistic, vegetable-forward dishes like tians and their appetizer relatives, verrines, are quintessential French fare.

Pommes anna or dauphinoise potatoes are examples of this preparation, but the best-known is Provençal vegetable tian — the famous ratatouille made in Pixar's animated film — also called confit byaldi. A delicious, uncomplicated, colorful and eye-catching way to serve seasonal produce, particularly in the summer and early fall, tians elevate humble veggies to their full potential.