A tian is a shallow French earthenware baking dish, as well as the name of the roasted vegetable dish often made in it and baked in an oven. The dish is native to Provence and can be constructed in beautifully arranged layers to provide a pleasing appearance as well as flavor.
The traditional tian dish is shaped like a shallow truncated cone, wide at the top and narrowing to the bottom. It is made from earthenware and may be colorfully glazed on the inside and unglazed on the outside. It is used as a baking dish in the oven. It is not as deep as a casserole dish and differs from a casserole dish in its conical shape.
Tian as a dish usually refers to a mixture of roasted vegetables cooking in a shallow dish, often with cheese or au gratin. This dish derives its name from the large, round, earthenware cooking pot used in Provence, France, but it may be cooked in any available baking dish.
Vegetable tians are the most commonly seen recipes, but meat can also be included. Often the meat would be ground or diced and cooked before adding to the layered vegetables.
Tian recipes traditionally have no added liquid, with the vegetables themselves providing the moisture in the dish.
Tian dishes may be served as vegetable side dishes or featured as the main course. They make a lovely presentation for a family-style meal, buffet dinner, or for a potluck dinner. It can be served warm or at room temperature and often tastes even better as leftovers. For outdoor summer buffets, a room temperature vegetable tian should have a low food safety risk.
Layering and arranging the vegetables in a tian gives them an elegant appearance. When garden vegetables are in season, a tian is a fun way to serve the bounty. The ubiquitous zucchini and summer squash, layered with tomatoes and potatoes and sprinkled with herbs and cheese are transformed into a dish everyone is eager to taste.
To compose layers for a tian, slice the vegetables into rounds 1/8-inch thick. For example, zucchini, yellow squash, red potatoes, eggplant, Roma tomatoes of approximately equal diameter. Now take the stacks of each vegetable and alternate them, so you have a rainbow of colors. You now have multicolored stacks of vegetables, like a roll of coins. This is often used as the top layer of a tian, placed on its side in a swirl as the vegetables are slightly fanned out and seasoned.
Lower layers of the tian can be made with yellow beans and green beans, alternated for color. A layer of sauteed onions also adds additional flavor. Vegetables may be sauteed or steamed before adding to the tian, to ensure the layers are all properly cooked before serving.
Provençal tian would traditionally be seasoned with thyme, garlic and olive oil.
The dish is often baked at 375 or 400 F and takes an hour or more to bake. Cheese may be added to the top layer halfway through the baking time.