- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Whenever I am invited to a potluck, I instinctively offer to make dessert, but recently, I volunteered to bring a vegetable — I was anxious to try a new dish one of my enthusiastic assistants had developed.

The recipe was for a sweet potato gratin, which had been fashioned after a similar dish I had created using Yukon Gold potatoes and creme fraiche. My talented helper, Emily Bell, had replaced the white spuds with sweet potatoes and used rosemary in place of thyme as a seasoning. She also had included some grated Gruyere cheese to enhance the flavor of the tubers.

Nothing could be simpler to assemble. A layer of peeled, thinly sliced sweet potato rounds are nestled in a baking pan, sprinkled with rosemary, salt and pepper, then topped with creme fraiche and grated cheese.

After a second layer is added, the gratin is baked until the potatoes are tender and the top is slightly crusty and golden.

A definite bonus is that this vegetable dish can be cooked several hours ahead and needs only to be reheated at serving time.

These delicious potatoes would make a worthy accompaniment to all sorts of hearty entrees. Ham, roast pork or chicken and grilled sausages would all pair beautifully with this delectable gratin — a definite advantage when choosing a dish for a potluck. And the bright orange hue of the potatoes provides a much needed burst of color to a cold weather menu.

Emily’s winter sweet potato gratin

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened for greasing the baking dish

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds

1½ teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed, divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup creme fraiche, divided (see note)

2/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese, divided

Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a shallow 2-quart oven-to-table baking dish generously.

Arrange half of the potato slices in the bottom of the prepared pan, overlapping them tightly. Season generously with half of the rosemary, ½ teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. With a spatula, spread half of the creme fraiche thinly over the potatoes. Sprinkle half the cheese over the creme fraiche. Repeat to make another layer.

Bake until potatoes are tender when pierced with a sharp knife and gratin is golden on top, 30 to 40 minutes, depending on thickness of potatoes. If potatoes are not done and top is starting to brown too quickly, cover gratin with a sheet of buttered foil, buttered side down.

When done, remove gratin from oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving. (The gratin can be prepared 6 hours ahead; cool, cover loosely with foil and leave at room temperature. Reheat, uncovered, in a preheated 350 degree oven until hot, 10 to 15 minutes.) Makes 6 servings.

Note: Two types of sweet potato are available in the United States. One has pale tan skin and light colored orange flesh, while the other (often erroneously labeled yams in the supermarket) has a dark copper-hued skin and rich orange flesh. The latter variety (with its bright orange flesh) is the one I like to use in this recipe.

Creme fraiche is available in most groceries. If you can’t find it, the following recipe works well. Whisk 1 cup heavy cream and 1/3 cup sour cream together in a medium nonreactive bowl. Let stand at room temperature until thickened, 6 hours or longer. Cover and refrigerate. (Creme fraiche can be stored up to 1 week, covered, in refrigerator.) Makes about 11/3 cups.


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