After my first bite of this so-called “over-the-top” savory sweet potato gratin, I sprung from the couch, searched for my phone, and made sure my sister knew about it ASAP. Just in case she was taking sweet potatoes to Thanksgiving, there was still time to ditch the sugar and marshmallows and make this version from ingredients (all four of them) that she already had in the house.
Deborah Madison was spot on in her blog-like recipe name. It’s not often you see cookbooks in which the author deems her own recipe “over-the-top” or “out of this world”. However, she was mistaken about the fact that it should only be made once a year, at the holidays, for a table full of good friends. Steve and I had no problem polishing off all eight servings in approximately 2.5 days.
Sweet potatoes’ current dominance on the culinary scene overlooks the fact that many of us were scarred for years by Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole overrun with marshmallows or crumbly brown sugar topping. That one was best eaten only once a year. Once per decade if I have any input (I don’t). It’s only when I realized that you could make a savory sweet potato skin covered in cheese that I began to explore the world of sweet potatoes anew.
If you’re one of the few who hasn’t joined/returned to the sweet potato party, let me boldly recommend you enter via cannonball and start with this anything-but-sweet potato casserole. It looks like a big, scary pile of potato slices with some cream thrown in…and it sort of is. Somehow, though, three types of chile powder (or one, if it’s all you’ve got) are the first combination in history to adequately tame sweet potatoes’ sweetness, actually complementing the sugar with a hint of smoky heat. The chile powders and sweet potatoes thicken the cream as the casserole bakes, turning it tasty and a very pretty pale yellow. Spoon the extra cream, by this point more of a gravy, over each tender, messy pile of potatoes as you serve them.
Don’t limit yourself to thinking of three-chile savory sweet potato casserole as a side dish. We made it the main dish when I tested the recipe. It’s so rich and heavy it might just be best that way, served with a simple green salad, a white bean salad, or your favorite seasonal roasted veggie.
More savory sweet potato recipes:
- Fluffy sweet potato rolls
- Sweet potato and kale veggie cakes
- Southwest sweet potato and egg bake
- Sweet potato risotto
- Thai sweet potato salad
- 4 lbs. sweet potatoes (about 6 large)
- 1 T sea or kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
- ½ T butter or oil, for the pan
- 2 t chile powder (regular or half chipotle chile powder)
- 1 cup heavy cream (sometimes labeled "whipping" cream)
- ¼ t smoked paprika (optional)
- Optional for serving: Gruyere or parmesan cheese, fresh chopped parsley or cilantro
- Rinse the potatoes of any loose dirt, put them into your largest pot, and cover with water. Add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until tender, about 30 minutes for large potatoes. They're ready when a paring knife or skewer easily pierces them, but if you find they're a little undercooked in the middle, it's okay, they'll finish in the oven.
- Preheat oven to 350 (F) and grease a 2 quart baking dish. Peel the potatoes with a paring knife or your hands, then slice them ½" thick. Layer about a third of the slices in the dish, then sprinkle generously with salt and a third of the chile powder. Repeat two more layers of potatoes, chile powder, and salt. Slowly pour the cream over the potatoes, covering almost all the exposed slices with cream. Sprinkle with a little more chile powder, if you have some left, and the smoked paprika. Bake on a rack placed just above the middle position for about 35 minutes, until the cream is bubbly and the potatoes are very tender. If the top hasn't browned in places, broil close to the heat for a couple minutes, watching carefully to avoid burning the cream.
- Grate cheese, if using, over the top while still piping hot. Sprinkle with the herbs and a little more salt just before serving. Keeps well for a few days as leftovers.
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