Cooking and Baking Dishes

Pie Plates, Baking Dishes, Covered Casseroles, Batter Bowls, Mixing Crocks, Colanders

The most amazing sight I've ever seen was a barn raising. Our barn burned down when I was 13. We hired a local construction crew to supervise the rebuilding, but everyone pitched in. Friends, neighbors, relatives, even the parish priest, all arrived with tools and energy to contribute. And while the barn went up, a similarly large structure was built--and demolished--every noon.

Mom and Grandma roasted chickens and hams. Neighbor women brought bread, hot dishes, vegetables, salads, dessert, Jello in all possible colors and combinations. Never before or since have I been so aware of how central food, and its sharing, is to our lives.

When the barn crew hit the dessert, pie went first. Cookies, cakes, bars all took second place to Grandma's apple and berry pies. "Our wives make cake at home," they told my mom, "but they never make pie."

I never understood that, myself. Pie is not that hard to make. I got my Grandma's recipe when I went away to college. After trying metal and pyrex pie plates, I finally settled on stoneware as the best. Something about the way clay absorbs and releases heat means that bottom crusts, even on a really juicy rhubarb pie, are rarely soggy.

Pie plates......$33

Our pie dishes are 9" across, and extra deep, to contain all those good juices. Patterns vary widely, depending on my inspiration, but include Rooster, Hen and Chicks, Ducks, Cats, Robins and Horses.

Squared Baking Dishes

Covered Casseroles

Garrison Keillor notwithstanding, we didn't have "hot dish" at our house. We had "casserole." Ground beef and tomato, tuna-fish, macaroni and cheese, each mixed into a substrate of that staple of Midwestern cuisine, the elbow macaroni. I still make variations of these recipes, with real cheddar, not that frightening orange stuff, and no cream of mushroom soup. Bread crumb toppings brown nicely in our Squared Baking Dishes.

With rice casseroles, I either cover the open baking dish with foil, or use one of our Covered Casseroles.

Batter Bowls......$29-39

What's the big deal about pancakes on Mardi Gras? We had them all through Lent. Every Friday, it was eggs, or macaroni and cheese, or pancakes. By Good Friday, Tony would announce, "If I never see a pancake again, that's still too soon!"

So I use small (1-1/2 quart) batter bowls for omelets and quiches, big ones (2-1/2 quart) for cake batter, muffins, or, very occasionally for... waffles.

Mixing crocks......$28

A couple of years back, I had a customer bring her favorite kitchen item in to Clay Fest for me to replicate: an Egg Mixing Crock.

It was a little thing, about six inches across, four-and-a-half high, holding about four cups, all told. Straight sides, a pouring spout and handle. I couldn't imagine what made it so special.

But I made her one, tweaking the design a little: better pouring spout, my crock-style handle. Painted a rooster on the front. Actually? I made two. I often do that with special orders: if one doesn't turn out, I have the other as a fallback, so don't have to wait for the next firing. In this case, both were fine, so the second one ended up in my kitchen.

I use it all the time. It's the perfect size for beating eggs for omelets, scrambles, left-over fried rice. It's also not bad for mixing a vinaigrette, marinade or sauce.

So I thought I'd make a few for you folks, see what you think. Not sure what to call them, yet. Egg Mixing Crock seems way too specific; maybe just Mixing Crock? In any event, they come in four patterns at the moment: Running Rooster, Goldfinch, Hummingbird and Bunnies. Price is $28.

Colanders......$34-40

There used to be an old Slovenian farmer in our area whose nickname was "Stop Macaroni." As my folks told it, he'd gone into the local general store (which shows how old the story is), looking for a strainer, or colander. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember the English name for the device, and the clerk didn't know Slovenian. After a number of unsuccessful attempts at communication, explanation, hand waving, even pantomime, he shouted in frustration (and an accent that can only be imagined), "Stop macaroni, water go 'head!"

He got his strainer.

Our "stop macaronis" come in two sizes: large are 10-1/2 inches wide, four inches deep, for $40. Small ones are 8-1/2 inches wide, 3-1/2 deep and cost $34. Both are hand-pierced in a six-pointed star pattern, with a notched foot for improved drainage. The rim is drilled for hanging, and a small brush drawing decorates the inside top.