herbs

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.

herb and cheddar corn pudding

OMG you guys. It’s November! Do you know what that means?

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

Thanksgiving is almost here!!!!

Well, less than a month anyway. I guess you could say that’s “almost” right?
I’m gonna go with yes, and I’m gonna get excited about it.

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

If you’ve been following me for a while you probably know that I take Thanksgiving very seriously. I have big recipe plans this year, and I’m so excited to get to share them with you. I’ve been thinking and planning and prepping and testing since early this summer, and for the next few weeks I’ll be sharing all the fruits of my labor. So much labor.

This will be my third Thanksgiving with Brooklyn Homemaker, and this time around I finally realized that I needed to get the ball rolling early if I was going to be able to share my whole meal plan with you guys. So, you’re welcome.

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

Now, when I was testing out (and photographing) this particular recipe, it was basically the height of corn season here in New York so the corn I used was bright and crisp and fresh from the green market.

In many parts of the country fresh sweet corn is still available at Thanksgiving, so if you can find it, great, use that. I realize however, that it may be difficult for many of you to find it this time of year. Fear not my friends, frozen corn will work totally fine.

My only advice is that you should skip the cheap-o bag of grocery store brand corn, and go for the good stuff. The sweet crunchy kernels are the stars of the show here, so you want to try to get the freshest, crunchiest frozen corn you can find. I love frozen corn and always have a bag (or two) of it in the freezer, but not all frozen corn is created equal. The cheap stuff can sometimes have a bland boring flavor and is often mealy and mushy, so using crumby corn in this recipe will most likely result in a crumby corn pudding.

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

Corn pudding isn’t super traditional in every region of the U.S., and I’d actually never even tasted it until making it myself this year. In the South however, it’s totally synonomous with Thanksgiving, and from what I’ve heard it’s served at most large family gatherings and celebrations. In the North, and on the West coast, many people haven’t even heard of it and have no clue what it is. When I told Russell I was thinking of giving it a try this Thanksgiving he had no clue what I was talking about and wasn’t really sold on the idea when I tried to explain it.

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

While I may not have grown up eating corn pudding, but I did grow up eating lots of corn. Sweet corn is a kind of a big deal in New York State, and I was raised with a deep love and respect for fresh corn.

When I was young we used to spend a lot of time at my grandparent’s house. Grandma always served corn (although she was fond of canned corn over fresh) and mashed potatoes with almost every meal. My sister and I used to make the craziest concoction with our corn and potatoes. We were kids, and had wild imaginations and strange pallets, and we would take a big scoop of potatoes, make a little well in the center that we’d fill with corn, and then we’d top the whole thing with applesauce. We called it a volcano. I don’t know where we got the initial idea to do this, but it was a nightly ritual at grandma’s dinner table. These days it sounds pretty gross to me, but when I was young it was a delicacy. As weird as it sounds now, I guess it’s pretty cool that my family let me do weird things with food so I would grow up with an adventurous culinary spirit.

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

Given my deep seated love of sweet corn, I’ve been lusting after this recipe for years. I can’t remember where I first saw it, maybe Pinterest, or maybe Food Network; but either way I’ve wanted to try it ever since. For the past two or three years I’ve wanted to make it for my Thanksgiving buffet but just never got around to it. Until now.

I don’t know how traditional this recipe is. I adapted it from Ina Garten, a woman who’s decidedly un-Southern but entirely capable in the kitchen. She may not be an authority on Southern home cooking, but she’s one of my greatest culinary idols so I figured her recipe had to be worth a shot.

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

This corn pudding has a soft, tender, fluffy, almost soufflé like texture, studded with crunchy bursting little golden kernels of sweet corn. Beyond being slightly sweet from the corn and rich with cream, butter, and eggs; it’s also packed with flavor from the fresh green herbs and sharp nutty cheddar cheese. The flavor and texture is sort of similar to spoon bread (another Southern classic) or maybe something like a cross between cornbread and a soufflé. It’s super rich and decadent, so you probably won’t really want huge servings, especially when served along with an already heavy and bountiful meal like Thanksgiving dinner. Because the serving size is small, this recipe makes enough to feed a crowd.

My one word of warning is be careful not to overcook it. It should be tender and light and delicate and it can lose those qualities and become hard and rubbery if it’s overcooked. So, resist the urge to try to get a brown golden crust on the top. A little browning is fine, but you don’t want it crispy looking.

herb and cheddar corn pudding | Brooklyn Homemaker

Herb and Cheddar Corn Pudding

Adapted from Ina Garten for Food Network

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 medium onion)
5 cups fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels (about 6 or 7 ears of fresh corn)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups grated sharp aged cheddar, divided

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the inside of a 8×12 or 9×13 baking dish. Try to find a dish that will easily fit inside another, larger, pan. (a high sided sheet pan works well)

Melt the butter in a very large saute pan and saute the onion over medium-high heat for 2 to 3e minutes. Add corn and saute for 4 minutes more. Add parsley, sage, and thyme and toss to coat. If using fresh corn use the butt end of your knife to scrape the “milk” from the corn cobs and add to pan. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Whisk the eggs, milk, and cream together in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal and ricotta, then the sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the cooked corn mixture and 1 cup of the grated cheddar, and then pour into the baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup of grated cheddar.

Place your baking dish in a larger pan and transfer to the center shelf of the oven. Use a measuring cup with a spout to fill the pan 1/2 way up the sides of the dish with hot tap water. Bake the pudding for 40 to 45 minutes until the top begins to brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm.