This unusually thick oval gratin is the work of Jacquotot, which makes it even more precious to me.
- Type: Tin-lined oval gratin in hammered finish with two brass ring handles in copper brackets fastened with two copper rivets
- French description: Gratin ovale étamé et martelé avec deux anneaux en laiton dans des supports en cuivre munis de deux rivets en cuivre
- Dimensions: 40cm long by 27cm wide at apex by 6cm tall (15.7 inches by 10.6 inches by 2.4 inches)
- Thickness: 3.2mm at rim
- Weight: 3755g (8.25 lbs)
- Stampings: “J. JACQUOTOT 128 & 130 R. DE GRENELLE PARIS”, “40”
- Maker and age estimate: Jacquotot; 1922-1930s
- Source: Newlyn Tinning
Gratin is a multifunctional French word that describes not only a cooking technique but also the product of that technique as well as the vessel in which it was cooked. The preparation au gratin or gratiné is with a butter, cream, or cheese sauce in a wide shallow pan, sprinkled liberally with breadcrumbs, and baked in the oven to produce a browned crust; a gratin is the dish itself, when finished, delectably hot and fragrant and beautiful on your countertop.
And this gratin is an ideal vessel for it. At 40cm (almost 16 inches) long, it can cook macaroni and cheese for a big crowd, but it can also take a nice large piece of fish. The hefty 3.2mm thickness makes the base of the pan a lovely even heating surface, and if you look at the tin, you’ll notice that it’s mottled from use. I haven’t yet made a gratin in it, but I have used it to sauté a batch of fat scallops.
A gratin dish is intended to be finished under a broiler to crisp up the breadcrumbs, and so the ideal pan has are compact handles so it can be tucked into an oven. (An oval pan with a long stick handle is a fish pan designed for stovetop use, though you could certainly use it for a gratin if it fits under your broiler.) This one has brass ring handles (anneaux) that move freely within copper brackets.
The disadvantage of brass handles, however, is heat. These things will get as hot as the oven itself. However, a gratin pan is not intended to be maneuvered much — you load it up, put it in the oven, then pull it out and serve. You’d need some good potholders or a side towel to handle the hot pan, but it’s not like you’re trying to jump food with it.
This pan is stamped by the copper manufacturer Jacquotot, which supplied the best hotels and restaurants in Paris with gorgeous copper cookware in the early 20th century. The company was begun some time around 1907, and this version of the stamp dates to 1922 to perhaps 1938.
I’d love to do one of my “field guides” on Jacquotot but I only have two pans from this house — this one and a 20cm Windsor (whose patina was obliterated during a destructive tinning) — so I can’t do much of a study. But for what it’s worth, here are some of the distinctive elements of this pan.
First, it’s got six rows of lovely hammering to it. The base itself is smooth.
The brackets are made out of copper and have an inverted heart shape.
The external rivets are flattened.
The internal rivets are flattened and virtually flush to the inner surface.
Finally, it’s possible that the font of the size stamp could be unique to Jacquotot as well. Here’s a closeup.
I’m still exploring this font-for-identification-purposes concept, but I don’t think it’s a totally crazy idea. Here are some other “4” stamps in my collection for comparison. They’re different from the Jacquotot font, and from each other as well. Hmmm, I’m going to have to look into this.
If you have a Jacquotot pan, cherish it. They’re beautiful pieces of French history. But don’t just cherish it — use it!