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Baked dishes made for sharing

Zucchini casserole.
Cheesy mac ‘n’ cheese, hearty casseroles and other baked dishes that make for fewer dishes and more sharing.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Though griping about washing dishes has been steady through the pandemic, at this point I feel we’re in the backlash to the backlash to the backlash to the complaint — a sense that, this time around, I’m really fed up! I’ve found myself eating takeout more to get a break from it, but one is never truly free: There are the drinking glasses and 10 million forks that seem to grow like weeds in my drying rack.

One way to avoid more dishes — aside from, well, using fewer, but good luck — is making more one-pot baked dishes. I might use the normal number of dishes to create the finished product, but the recipes each make enough servings that I’ll have meals for days that dirty only one plate and fork each. My detestation of leftovers notwithstanding, I’ve come to appreciate this strategy.

In this week’s print issue, I even write about how making one of these types of all-in-one meals to deliver to friends in need can be such a relief to people who are burned out on cooking or who are struggling a year into a pandemic whose conclusion still seems far off. So, if you want to join me in this routine, here are some dishes to try out.

Chicken thighs and a bunch of kale combine in this easy dish that gets seasoned as it shallow-simmers in salty olive brine. More greens and mushrooms make for a hearty vegetable pot pie that makes you feel slightly less guilty about eating pastry for several meals afterward. If pastry isn’t your thing, there’s a root vegetable “shepherd’s pie” topped with pureed butternut squash enriched with just a splash of browned butter. This zucchini casserole couldn’t be easier to assemble, relying on canned tomatoes and chiles and cornbread stuffing mix (sometimes that’s exactly what you need) to blend into a cheesy, bubbling tian.

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And if all these vegetables are making you feel a little too good, here’s a classic baked mac ‘n’ cheese with only a little black pepper and thyme to distract from the cheese-sauce-laced pasta. Each dish watches after itself in the oven and gets better upon repeat reheatings. Share the extras or stash them in the freezer, where they’ll wait conveniently until until you’re flooded with your next wave of dishwashing hatred.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This macaroni and cheese keeps it simple with only cheddar and parmesan for pure, uncomplicated pleasure. Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour.

The macaroni and cheese dish at Lawry's Carvery is baked with lots of cheddar.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Wild Mushroom, Spinach and Ricotta Pie

Ricotta and goat cheese add tanginess and moisture to this pie packed with mushrooms, spinach and leeks. Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 35 minutes.

Wild mushrooms, spinach and cheese combine in a pie so rich and filling you might never guess it's vegetarian.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

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Brine-Braised Chicken Thighs with Kale and Avocado

Kale and chicken thighs stand up equally to a braise in olive brine, which suffuses each with deep umami flavor. Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 10 minutes.

A roasting dish containing chicken thighs, kale, olives, lemon and avocado.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Zucchini Casserole

Blanching zucchini, ironically, rids it of excess moisture, leaving nothing to dilute this cheesy casserole. Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes.

Zucchini squash casserole in a baking dish with a wooden spoon alongside it
(Los Angeles Times)

Root Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie

Sweet butternut squash, enriched with some browned butter, tops this melange of root vegetables cooked in a creamy herb sauce. Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

The root vegetable shepherd's pie with butternut squash puree from Rustic Canyon Wine Bar & Seasonal Kitchen in Santa Monica.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

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