The classic vessel is a flattened cone, wide at the mouth and narrow at the base. It is traditionally glazed on the inside, and unglazed on the outside. It is shallower than the cassole, the earthenware vessel characteristic of the Camargue and Languedoc. The shape has become less definitive, though the earthenware material remains key.
The dish tian has also changed over time. An 18th century dictionary describes it as "a lean stew". Modern tian is described as having no added liquid, and is cooked until the liquid in the ingredients has evaporated. In Provence, the dish may be made with vegetables alone, but also with lamb, fish, or egg added to vegetables. Goat cheese is a common ingredient. Tian can be described as a gratin in the Provençal style. Typical ingredients in tian are more associated with Provence than other regions of France. Tian is baked in an oven.
- Wolfert, Paula (2009). Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking: Traditional and Modern Recipes to Savor and Share. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 122, 230. ISBN 9780764576331.
- David, Elizabeth (1999). French provincial cooking. New York: Penguin Books. pp. 59–61. ISBN 0141181532.
- Avril, Jean-Toussaint (1839). Dictionnaire provencal-francais. Edouard Cartier. p. 446.
- Loomis, Susan Herrmann (2005). Cooking at Home on Rue Tatin (1st ed.). New York: Morrow. p. 180. ISBN 0060758171.
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