Emma Shafer is a member of the Crown Publicity team at Random House. She is a recent transplant to Brooklyn, where she tries to balance her love of ambitious recipes with her new dishwasherless life.
A few weeks ago, my roommate and I decided to host a potluck. Since we were going to have a crowd of more than a dozen people, I wanted something that would be low-stress (not too many dishes to wash, good to serve a crowd, etc.) and easy to assemble. I also needed it to be super delicious! I chose Sweet Potato Gratin from Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, September 2011).
First, I went to the Farmer’s Market and discovered that I have been living a lie. In the world of sweet potatoes vs. yams, I had my terminology confused and all of the stands with signs advertising sweet potatoes were selling a vegetable that was totally foreign to me. But it was my only option, so I decided not to worry about it, bought half a dozen, and schlepped them back to my apartment.
To assemble this dish, all you need are (skinned, sliced) sweet potatoes, heavy cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I gathered my ingredients and got to work peeling the sweet potatoes and slicing them into thin rounds. If you have a mandoline and are also very brave, this part of the recipe will go super fast. If you don’t have a mandoline or have one but are terrified of it, like I am, consider using a knife and spending the extra 20 minutes.
Once the sweet potatoes were all sliced, I got out the spices and started grating the nutmeg and cinnamon. My uncle is a merchant marine and he was nice enough to share a TON of really great, super fresh spices with me from his last trip to South Asia. Having fresh spices isn’t necessary, but they did make the dish extra fragrant. I mixed the cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg directly into my big jug of heavy cream and started assembling the layers, alternating sweet potato and heavy cream (with a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper on each layer).
Next, after making sure the sweet potato was submerged in the cream mixture, I covered the dish with aluminum foil and popped it in the oven for half an hour at 375 degrees. After the 30 minutes were up, I removed the tinfoil and baked for another 45 minutes, then let it rest for 15 minutes right as our potluck guests were starting to arrive.
This recipe was a really big hit. It’s insanely delicious and pretty easy to make. Several of the guests asked for the recipe because they wanted to bring this to their Thanksgiving celebrations. I’m already trying to figure out when I can make Sweet Potato Gratin again!
Sweet Potato Gratin from Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook:
2 cups heavy cream
1 1?4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1?4 teaspoon ground cloves
1?4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1?8 inch thick on a mandoline
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Whisk together the cream, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg until smooth.
3. In a 10-inch square baking dish, arrange an even layer of sweet potatoes. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of the cream mixture and season with salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining potatoes and cream, seasoning with salt and pepper, to form 8 to 10 layers. Press down on the layers to totally submerge the sweet potatoes in the cream mixture.
4. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue baking until the cream has been absorbed, the potatoes are cooked through, and the top is browned, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.