Plenty of oven-baked dishes are worth romanticizing about, especially during a bracingly cold winter. Their aromas and warmth can permeate an entire home. They seem to take care of themselves, at least in those final stages of cooking. And they promise warming, savory comfort for the table.
A gratin, though, can do even more. It emerges from the oven not only fragrant and bubbling hot but with a browned, crisp crust crowning the luxurious goodness underneath. What I’ve come to appreciate most is the gratin’s ability to make something special out of ordinary ingredients, on any ordinary night. Consider a casserole of meaty borlotti beans, their juices concentrated beneath a shaggy coat of bread crumbs, or a jumble of toasted farro and ruffly savoy cabbage, baked until the center is lacy with melted cheese and the top is chewy and crisp. These dishes come together like weeknight meals, but they’re dressed up just enough to taste like something more.
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