Now that Halloween's old news (all of two whole days, but doesn't it just seem so much longer?) we have officially entered the-getting-ready-for-Thanksgiving Day period, in which cooks all over America (and even some abroad) try to figure out just what to make for that fourth Thursday in November. Now in all likelihood, you will be serving a bevy of family favorites which if you were to forgo would produce hostile glares, nasty comments and yes, even tantrums, but maybe, just maybe, you're feeling brave and looking for some new and interesting dishes to spice up your holiday table. And maybe you're looking to add some more vegetarian options to that very turkey-ish day. If so, behold this gorgeous Gruyére, Sweet Potato and Pecan Gratin. It's appropriately colored, festive, decadently delicious and for such an interesting looking dish, easy to make (as long as you have a mandoline--but I'm getting ahead of myself.) Let the Thanksgiving prep begin!!
Speaking of mandolines-do you own one? It's one of those seemingly indulgent and rarely turned to kitchen, but boy oh boy, when you do need it, it's a lifesaver! It's how you get the sweet potatoes sliced in those perfect thin even slices without a trip to the emergency room or losing your sanity! Beg, borrow, steal or as a last resort, buy one. This is the one I have--it's rated #1 on Amazon but no pressure to buy it--I get no compensation from Amazon (although maybe I should, hint, hint) I just want you to have the most success with this dish as possible! And if all else fails and you don't get your hands on one, you can still make this--just use a very sharp knife and be patient.
Once you've sliced all the potatoes you wedge them into place in a pie plate, trying to assemble them as if they had never been cut. It's kinda artsy but not too rigid, which fits me perfectly!!
But now, let me talk about the taste, because this is not just another pretty face, if you get my drift. Think gooey, slightly nutty cheese and crunchy pecans married to tender, thinly sliced sweet potatoes all in a light but creamy sauce. It's hearty enough to be a vegetarian main dish and equally wonderful as a side (maybe as an alternative to that sweet potato marshmallow thing you've been making for years?). Who knows, maybe they'll all be openminded and like it even better!!Let the Thanksgiving prep begin!!
Gruyére, Sweet Potato and Pecan Gratin
Serves 4-6 people as a main dish, more if you use it as a side
Prep Time: 25 minutes; Bake Time: About one hour and 10 minutes
- Softened butter for greasing pie plate
- 2 3/4 sweet potatoes
- 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
- a few sprigs of fresh chives
- Pinch of salt and black pepper
- 3 1/2 ounces Gruyére cheese
- 1/2 cup pecans
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF and grease a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate generously with the softened butter. Set aside.
2. Peel the sweet potatoes and slice very thinly. If you have a mandoline, now's the time to use it. Otherwise, use a sharp knife and be careful. Once you slice an entire potato, keep it together and start on the next one. When all the potatoes are sliced, wedge the sliced-through potatoes tightly into the prepared pie plate as if they haven't been cut through at all and are still whole.
3. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the chives and the pinch of salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse the cream. Then, pour the cream over the potatoes in the dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
4. While potatoes are baking, grate the cheese and roughly chop the pecans. When 45 minutes is up, remove the foil and sprinkle the cheese and nuts all over the top evenly. Return the dish to the oven for another 20 minutes or so, until the cheese gets browned and the sauce is bubbly. Let cool for about 15 minutes and serve.
Note: Recipe adapted from Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients by John Whaite. I subbed in chives for rosemary because that's what I had on hand. Feel free to use any fresh herb you like.