American Thanksgiving is just around the corner and this means American families across the globe (yes, the globe) are busy planning gatherings and their holiday menu. This is my favorite holiday of the year because it focuses unabashedly on the food – and of course, giving thanks (for the great food).
Up until a couple days ago, I was a little sad because it is the first time in years that looking at recipes for turkey, stuffing, candied yams, and mashed potatoes didn’t evoke a rush of kitchen adrenaline — because we didn’t have any Thanksgiving plans. Then, in a matter of days we went from no plans to lots of plans. We were invited to a Thanksgiving dinner and I convinced Omar that we should host his co-workers (all Moroccans) for a traditional turkey dinner! Whoo hoo! That means my meal planning is in full swing.
Blogging makes holiday recipes tricky because I need to make and take photos of the recipe well before the holiday to allow time for readers like you to plan (and make!) the recipe. The problem is, when I go back to my recipes and old photos, I’m not always in the mood to post something I made months ago. It seems…stale. At the same time, making a pumpkin pie three weeks before Thanksgiving for the sake of new pictures also feels like I’m taking away the pie’s chance to shine at the Thanksgiving feast.
All this aside, I’d be remiss if I didn’t have something to share in honor of my favorite holiday. So, before I get to the Sweet Potato Gratin as an alternative to Sweet Potato Casserole, here are a few of my favorite Thanksgiving sides from past years:
- Butternut Squash Lasagna – This one is a total crowd pleaser, even for those that are skeptical. I make this recipe at least twice a month from November through February, and it’s made an appearance on at least 4 of our last 5 Thanksgivings tables.
- Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate – I love this recipe. It’s a little involved because making the pomegranate molasses is an extra step, but this one has made it three Thanksgivings in a row, and it’s on the menu for this year!
- Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Blue Cheese and Hazelnuts – This is a great seasonal salad and a fun way to get veggies on your Thanksgiving table!
- Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash and Apples – A great winter salad that will also cater to vegetarians. I brought this to a Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin’s house last year with the Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate.
Now, onto my recipe for sweet potato au gratin. I love sweet potatoes but I am not a fan of the traditional sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. Omar is not the biggest fan of cinnamon and tends to favor savory renditions of sweet potatoes, so I’m always on the lookout for savory sweet potato recipes. This recipe delivers a savory punch to the traditional sweet potato. Admittedly, I haven’t made this dish in a while because I don’t have a mandolin. I did my best to slice the sweet potatoes thinly, but I think the dish would benefit from a more delicate slice. What is your favorite sweet potato recipe?
SWEET POTATO GRATIN
Approximately 1 kg or 2 lbs. of sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly. If you have a mandolin, aim for an 1/8of an inch thick. If you are doing this with a knife, just slice as thinly as you can without hurting yourself!
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1½ cups of milk or cream (I used 1% milk)
¼ teaspoon fresh nutmeg
pinch of ground cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, parmesan, Gruyere, or a combination)
Pre-heat oven to 375F.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with garlic. Slowly add the flour and whisk constantly to make a roux (2-3 minutes). Take care not to burn the flour. Take the pot off the heat and add the milk slowly in a steady stream. Return the saucepan with milk to medium heat and while whisking constantly, bring the milk to a simmer. Simmer and whisk until the milk thickens to coat a spoon. Turn off the heat and whisk in the nutmeg, cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste. Now it’s time to assemble the dish! Lightly oil or butter a large casserole dish. Create a layer of sweet potatoes with 1/3 of the potatoes in the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle over with a pinch of salt and pepper, then sprinkle over with a layer of cheese, and repeat with the remaining potatoes and cheese to create a total of three layers—BUT before you sprinkle on the final layer of cheese, pour the milk sauce over the last layer of potatoes. Gently shake or tap the dish on the counter to settle the sauce into the dish. NOW, sprinkle the last layer of cheese over everything. Cover with foil and bake in the oven, covered for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes in the top third of the oven or in the broiler (make sure your dish is broiler safe) to brown the top. Remove from the oven and let the potatoes rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. If you don’t let them rest, they will be too hot and will not hold their shape when you try to slice them.