I love regular old fashioned potatoes cooked any old way. Mr. C on the other hand, does not. But he does love sweet potatoes as much as I do. So when I had four Yukon Gold potatoes and one large sweet potato on hand that really needed to be eaten, I immediately went into research mode. I started investigating the possibility of combining members of the Solanaceae or nightshade family with a member of the Convolvulaceae family in the form of a gratin. But would that be like asking the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s to sit down to Sunday dinner together? The thought did arise.
My saner side soon disqualified my concern as ridiculous (yah think?) and I proceeded to seek out the perfect gratin recipe featuring tubers* and tuberous roots.
I found several recipes that looked good to me, but none that looked perfect. So I made a few changes, additions, and replacements here and there using several of the recipes I found, and came up with this version.
We both loved the gratin. The potatoes each had a definite texture of their own, and the Manchego cheese paired with the fresh thyme gave the whole dish a light savory flavor. A perfect entrée side dish when served with a mild flavored meat, chicken, or seafood.
And I do believe that those of you with small children or family members who disdain even the thought of sweet potatoes, could get this dish past the discriminating palates of even your most picky eaters. Just don’t tell them what’s in the gratin. Or, if you must tell them something, tell them it’s basically macaroni and cheese, but made with potatoes instead of pasta. That should do the trick!
*potatoes are technically tubers, not roots; while sweet potatoes are tuberous roots (some distinction, right?)
- 2 T. butter, plus more for greasing the casserole pan
- 1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes (about 4 medium sized), thinly sliced (peeled or not peeled, your choice)
- ¾ lb. (about 1 good sized) sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 loosely packed cup of grated Manchego cheese*
- 1 medium sized shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, pressed
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- 1½ tsp. kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- pinch ground nutmeg
- 1 c. whole milk
- ½ c. whipping cream
Liberally butter a covered casserole dish. Layer the potatoes on the bottom of the prepared dish, overlapping each slice by half. Alternate each layer with a different kind of potato. When the first layer of potatoes is complete; sprinkle with some of the cheese. Repeat until all of the potato slices and cheese are in the casserole pan.
Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan. Add the shallot and cook for about 2 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the thyme, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and milk. Bring to a boil; then carefully pour the hot liquid over the potato slices. Press the potatoes down with a fork or whatever cooking implement works best for you. Cover the casserole pan and bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven until the potatoes are almost tender and the milk is almost absorbed, about 45 minutes. Uncover and pour the cream over the top.
Return the casserole to the oven and bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown in spots and the potatoes are fork tender. Remove from oven, cover, and let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.
*Manchego cheese is made from the milk of sheep of the Manchego breed. To be true “queso Manchego”, the cheese must come from the La Mancha region of Spain. Luckily Manchego (the real deal) can be purchased at Costco. (That’s a very good thing for us, because it’s Mr. Cs favorite cheese and he nibbles (and I use the term loosely) on it almost every day.)