gratin

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage

I can’t even believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving already.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

I swear it really just snuck up on me this year. Last year I had my entire meal planned months in advance, and because I wanted to share my whole menu with everyone here, I’d even tested, modified, written out, and photographed the recipes well before November even started.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

This year though, the Maxwell’s build-out and opening occupied most of my attention from summer well into the fall, and everything else in my life had to be put on the back burner. I’ve had some ideas stewing that I wanted to test out for my Thanksgiving spread this year, but I just never really found the time, even once Maxwell’s was open and I was able to re-focus my attention elsewhere.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

The funny thing is that I actually first attempted this recipe when I was trying to plan for my Thanksgiving spread last year. I knew that I’d want to make some significant changes to it, and I just had too many other recipes to focus on, so I decided to dog-ear the idea to come back to later.

Well, it’s later now.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

So, a couple weeks ago I started playing with it to fine tune my vision and streamline the steps. My first instinct was to caramelize the onions and fennel before mixing them in with the cream, but I actually found that by the time the whole thing baked for an hour an a half, the onions and fennel cooked down way too much and were almost indistinguishable. I also originally planned to peel the potatoes, or maybe just the sweet potatoes, but after trying the recipe both ways, peeling just seemed like an unnecessary extra step.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

With everything that goes into making an entire Thanksgiving dinner, I figured that everyone, including myself, would appreciate any unnecessary steps that I could eliminate. Enough effort goes into slicing everything with the mandoline and arranging the slices in tight circles, so as long as it still tastes great, why not make everything else super easy?

Speaking of slicing everything with a mandoline, please be careful when you’re slicing. Those pesky mandolines have bitten me a few times, but if you go slow and use a guard when you get toward the end of the potato, I promise that you can keep your fingertips intact. Another option to keep your fingers super safe would be to invest in a cut resistant glove. Whenever I’ve had any accidents with mandolines though, it’s been because I was going too fast or was distracted by something else in the kitchen. The blades are sharp and deserve your undivided attention, so please use caution! Unfortunately this recipe will be kind of difficult to perfect without one. Sorry friends!
I mean, if you have surgically precise knife skills, by all means please go ahead and just use a knife, but it’s really important that all the slices are the exact same thickness so everything cooks at the same time.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

Let me tell you friends, this recipe was worth the wait and the effort. Who could say no to tender, delicate, richly flavored potatoes with crunchy, crispy top edges? The mix of red, white, and sweet potatoes is wonderfully autumnal without being too sweet, and the onions and fennel caramelize in the oven and their flavors go from pungent and intense to rich, mellow, and slightly sweet. The mix of cheeses adds a salty, nutty richness, and the sage, thyme, and garlic make this dish the perfect side to serve with turkey or poultry.
Or maybe I should say turkey would be the perfect side to serve with this gratin, because these potatoes are sure to steal the Thanksgiving spotlight.

It doesn’t have to end at Thanksgiving though! This recipe would be an amazing addition to any fall or winter meal, be it a special occasion, or just a way to up the ante on your sunday dinner.

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

In the recipe below, I say that this dish should yield 6 to 10 side-sized servings, but I want to mention that if you’re serving this at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, with a wide array of other foods, your yield should actually be higher because your portion sizes will be smaller. Although many of your guests may go back in for seconds, people tend to take smaller portions when there’s a lot on the table because they’re trying to fit 15 different things on one plate.

So, at a normal dinner with a main and a side or two, this should feed about 6 to 10 people, but at Thanksgiving I think this recipe should be enough for about 12 to 15. The more the merrier, right?

red, white, & sweet potato gratin with fennel & sage | Brooklyn Homemaker

Red, White, & Sweet Potato Gratin with Fennel & Sage

  • Servings: 6 to 10 side-size servings
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Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

1 cup grated comte cheese (or other semi-firm nutty cheese like gruyere or emmental)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt (sounds like a lot, but this is a lot of potatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1 lb red potatoes
1 lb white potatoes
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes
1 large to 2 small fennel bulbs (about 1/2 to 3/4 lb)
2 small to medium onions (about 1/2 lb)
2 tablespoons butter, softened

Preheat oven to 400F and adjust rack to the middle of the oven.

Toss cheeses together in a medium bowl to combine. Transfer about 1/3 of the mixture to another bowl and set aside for later use. Back in the first bowl, add cream, salt, pepper, garlic, sage, & thyme; and stir or toss to combine. Set aside.

Using a mandoline slicer, slice all the potatoes, unpeeled, into 1/8 inch thick disks and place into a very large bowl.  The larger the bowl, the easier it will be to toss the potatoes with the cream without making a mess. Slice the onion(s) and fennel bulb(s) to the same thickness and add to the potatoes. Pour cream and cheese mixture over the potatoes and toss toss toss to completely coat each slice of potato with cream. Use your fingers to separate any potatoes that may have become stuck together, so that every single slice is coated in the cream mixture.

Butter the inside of a large casserole, or 12″ cast iron skillet *see note. Organize handfuls of potatoes into neat stacks, along with some slices of onions and fennel, and line them up in the casserole with their edges aligned vertically. Continue placing stacks of potatoes into the dish, working around the perimeter and into the center until all potatoes have been added. Potatoes should be tightly packed. If necessary, slice an additional potato, coat with the remaining cream mixture, and add to the casserole. Pour the remaining cream mixture evenly over the potatoes until the mixture comes about half way up the sides of the potato slices. You may not need all the liquid.

Cover dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil and transfer to oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid/foil and bake for 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and return to oven to bake until deep golden brown and crisp on top, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven, let rest for at least 15 minutes, and serve.

*cooks note:
I used a braising pan that measures about 12″ across, so a 12″ cast iron skillet would perfectly as well. I also think a 9×13″ casserole should work great, but rather than arranging the potatoes in circles, just line them up lengthwise in three rows.

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sweet potato gratin

Sweet potatoes are seriously the best.

sweet potato gratin with caramelized onions & Jarlsberg | Brooklyn Homemaker

Though they’re not technically in the same family, a sweet potato can do almost anything a regular potato can, and can probably do it better. They can be french fried, mashed, baked, roasted, you name it. You can even turn these puppies into dessert! Take that, potatoes!

Sweet potatoes have more flavor and are (obviously) sweeter, but what you might not consider is that they’re also packed with beta-carotene and calcium, and have almost 300% of the vitamin A you need in a day. Now that’s what I call a superfood.

sweet potato gratin with caramelized onions & Jarlsberg | Brooklyn Homemaker

One thing I’m not crazy about when it comes to sweet potatoes though, is the tendency to make them even sweeter while serving them with dinner. I mean, if you want to make a dessert, go ahead and make a dessert. There’s nothing better than a good sweet potato pie. But if you’re serving sweet potatoes as a side dish I really don’t get the desire to cover them in marshmallows. I guess its just not for me. You wouldn’t cover a radish or a green bean in brown sugar and marshmallows would you? Well, I don’t know, maybe you would. I wouldn’t though!

I know some people really dig candied sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, but it’s just not for me. Sorry.

sweet potato gratin with caramelized onions & Jarlsberg | Brooklyn Homemaker

Anyway, because I’m a lunatic forward-thinker, I’m already planning my Thanksgiving menu. You already know this, but I take this holiday pretty seriously. I really want to highlight sweet potatoes on my table this year, but I’ll be damned if a marshmallow comes anywhere near my little orange beauties. I love mashing them just like potatoes, with lots of butter, but this year I want to do something special.

sweet potato gratin with caramelized onions & Jarlsberg | Brooklyn Homemaker

It didn’t take me long to decide on some type of layered casserole. A gratin is the perfect solution. Rich and satisfying, with a touch of cream and cheese to gussy things up.

sweet potato gratin with caramelized onions & Jarlsberg | Brooklyn Homemaker

Most gratin recipes call for a salty hard cheese like parmesan, but I thought the sweet potatoes called for something a bit creamier and nuttier, so I opted for Jarlsberg. If you’re not familiar, Jarlsberg is a mild cow’s milk cheese from Norway. It has large holes like swiss, but it’s more buttery and nutty. If you can’t find it I think Gruyere would work really well too.

sweet potato gratin with caramelized onions & Jarlsberg | Brooklyn Homemaker

I wanted to pack as much savory flavor into this gratin as possible, so I poked around the internet until I found a recipe that sandwiched a layer of caramelized onions between the sliced sweet potatoes. Yes please. To take the flavor even further I went and added a few thing; some thyme and parsley along with the sage in the original recipe, as well as a bit of dijon mustard, some ground cayenne pepper for kick, and some smoked paprika for a nice hint of smoky depth.

This is not only the perfect side dish for Thanksgiving, but really any large gathering or dinner party. On top of being crazy delicious, I think it’ll travel really well too, and could easily be prepared ahead and reheated.

sweet potato gratin with caramelized onions & Jarlsberg | Brooklyn Homemaker

As soon as I took my first bite, I knew I’d reached sweet potato perfection.

If you want to know how good it tastes, let me just say this. Russell is spoiled by my cooking. While he absolutely loves and appreciates everything I make, most of my cooking gets little more than a “thank you” or “yummy”. This though, he couldn’t shut up about. He went on and on about how delicious and perfect it was. He ran out of words. And frankly, I don’t think there are enough words in the English language to properly describe this gratin. A few that come to mind though are creamy, savory, spicy, smoky, cheesy, buttery, tender, rich, delicious, satisfying, hearty, flavorful, heavenly and amazing… Oh yeah, and Bow-chicka-wow-wow.

sweet potato gratin with caramelized onions & Jarlsberg | Brooklyn Homemaker

Sweet Potato Gratin

  • Servings: 8 to 12-ish (depending on serving size)
  • Print
adapted from the kitchn

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus more for pan)
2 medium onions, sliced into thin half circles
3 pounds sweet potatoes or yams (3 to 4 large)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder (optional)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

Topping:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs (or plain, unseasoned bread crumbs)
3/4 cup grated Jarlsberg cheese (or Gruyere)
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finesly chopped

Heat the oven to 350°F and butter a 9×13 casserole or gratin dish. In a heavy skillet heat 2 tablespoons of butter to a foam and add the sliced onions. Season them with a bit of salt and slowly caramelize them over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. To get them nice and brown (but not burned) should take about 20 or 30 minutes.

While the onions sizzle away, peel your sweet potatoes and slice them into 1/4-inch thick disks. Getting thin and even slices will be easiest with a mandolin, but is totally possible with a sharp knife and a steady hand. Layer half of the slices in the buttered dish, overlapping them in tight rows or spirals. Season the layer with salt and pepper.

Once the onions are soft and caramelized to your liking, add the sage, parsley, thyme, dijon mustard, paprika, cayenne pepper, and cream. Bring to a simmer, stir well, and cook until the cream is thick and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Do your best to remove the onions from the cream with a slotted spoon. Spread the onions evenly over the first layer of sweet potatoes. Layer the remaining sweet potatoes on top, in the same rows or spirals as before. Season with kosher salt and black pepper, and evenly pour or spread the cream over the top. The cream will not cover the potatoes completely or fill the dish and you will think there’s isn’t enough. Don’t add more! Too much will make the sweet potatoes mushy.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 or 15 minutes more, or until the potatoes are just tender. (Note: If your sweet potato slices are thicker than 1/4 inch- baking time is likely going to take longer.)

While the sweet potatoes are in the oven, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and let cool a bit. In a small bowl, pour the butter over the bread crumbs, grated Jarlsberg and chopped parsley, and toss well to combine. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the gratin and return to the oven (uncovered) for about 15 minutes or until brown and crispy. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.