Lately I’ve been trying to use what I have, buy less. It takes more effort but has made me mindful: A ton of leftover baby carrots from a holiday party platter went into soups, stews and salads for weeks.
But my cookware has been limiting me. The casseroles, baking dishes and oven-safe plates that match my dishes don’t work for everything. Here’s the problem: They can’t go in the oven over 375 degrees. That leaves out a lot, but I didn’t want to buy any more dishes.
Using the fancy pie plate means I can only bake pies at 375 degrees, lower than optimal. But oh, that pie plate is beautiful. The crust comes out OK but not as brown as I’d like.
What I really wanted was some au gratin dishes, the porcelain ones that can go into a very hot oven and under the broiler. So I broke down and bought two at Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Stuyvesant Plaza in Guilderland, and was very glad I did.
Husband Eric and I went through a period of eating a lot of things that can be cooked in au gratin dishes, and I felt the purchase was justified. Then we bought enough for company.
The very best thing that can be cooked in an au gratin dish is Coquille St. Jacques. The New York Times ran a recipe by Ina Garten many years ago, a make-ahead version perfect for anxious hosts.
It’s a simplified version of a complicated recipe, but it still takes some effort to put together. I had three burners on the stove going at once, but after I poured the lovely sauce over the raw scallops in the au gratin dishes I cleaned up, covered the dishes and put them in the refrigerator. Done.
The next day I mixed together buttered bread crumbs, parsley and shredded Gruyere for topping the dishes, and whisked them into a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. I was relaxed and collected at the dinner table. Husband Eric had minimal cleanup.
That recipe is available at New York Times Cooking, which you have to join to access their recipes. But you can find lots of good au gratin recipes online.
Just prepare the dishes ahead and refrigerate them until you’re ready to cook.
Caroline Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Troy. Reach her at [email protected]. “In & Out of the Kitchen” is an occasionally appearing feature in Life & Arts.