The Most Exciting of Days, and a Gratin

Hi! I’m back for another round of guest-blogging!

At the time of writing this post, I am pretty confident that my endorphin high is only just beginning to simmer down. 12 hours before writing this post, at 6:45am, I was standing outside in nothing but meager running clothes, in below-freezing temperatures, pre-sunrise, waiting with 15,000 other people for the NYC Half Marathon to begin. I cannot describe to you how incredibly cold we all were. One girl asked “is this what the Titanic was like?” I would imagine not, but damn was it cold. Shortly after that, I was literally leaping down the streets of Times Square and slapping the hands of small children cheering from the sidewalks (and then the hand of a fireman standing in the middle of a tunnel below battery park, cheering like it was his job, which it may actually have been at the moment). It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. And before my training officially ends and I return to eating like the health freak that I am, I figured- why not make one of the few dishes that is covered in cheese, cream, and caramelized onions!

Lots of preparation required. I hope you have a few good knives.

Lots of preparation required. I hope you have a few good knives.

I recently purchased Vegetarian Suppers by Deborah Madison (she wrote the ever-popular Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) and have gone through most of my yellow post-it notes on all the recipes I must make. This is my first recipe, and I was quite pleased with how clear the directions were (for the most part). Last weekend, Julie and I made an onion tart, and I discovered that there is a whole category of technically-for-dinner dishes that are just smothered in cheese and cream! This will be the death of me, it will. Anyway, this Sweet Potato Gratin with Onions and Sage really made me sweat in the kitchen. There’s a lot of chopping and slicing and grating and boiling and sautéing before you get to put it all together. It’s definitely not a recipe I’d recommend for a weeknight, unless you prepare all your ingredients on day one, and assemble on day two (probably not a great way to go about things). I would imagine it could be a great crowd pleaser at a small dinner party, as it is supposed to serve about 4 and looks/sounds quite intricate and fancy.

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I'm not a fan of boiling veggies, since you lose some nutrients. But considering the intense bad-for-you-ness of the dish overall, I just figured screw it.

I’m not a fan of boiling veggies, since you lose some nutrients. But considering the intense bad-for-you-ness of the dish overall, I just figured screw it.

In addition to the 13.1 mile endorphin rush that even made grating cheese seem not that bad, this cooking adventure made me happy to find a way to showcase my brand new, incredibly old milk-glass Pyrex cinderella mixing bowls. They were the perfects sizes for arranging all my ingredients as I prepared them, and I was able to bake the whole gratin right in the largest of the bowls. It was all fancy and showy, especially considering I was only cooking this for me and the boy. But alas, after slicing the sweet potato, sautéing the chopped onion with the sage, chopping parsley with some garlic, and finally boiling the sweet potatoes for just 1 minute, the assembly seemed very simple and anticlimactic. I mixed all the ingredients (save for cream and cheese), then put a third in the bottom of the lightly oiled dish. On top of that, half the cheese. Then more of the potato mixture. Then the other half  of the cheese. Then the rest of the potato mixture. Finally, I grated a bit more cheese on top – the recipe calls for parmesan throughout and on top but I figured I’d just do gruyere all the way through. Finally I poured a mixture of .5c milk and .5c cream, slightly warmed, over the whole thing, before baking it covered for 25 minutes and uncovered for another 25 at 350. Tada! In regard to the finished product – it was good. Definitely very good. But I think I would have enjoyed it just as much if not more without the cream. Just a roasted veggies dish with cheese. Maybe I would have added more cheese to compensate. Also I think butternut squash would do this dish well. Update: after a night in the fridge, the dish is actually even tastier (upon microwave reheating).

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Sweet Potato Gratin with Onion and Sage, ever-so-slightly adapted from Vegetarian Suppers by Deborah Madison

2 tsp oil, for sautéing the onions
1 large onion, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
2 tbsp chopped sage, or 2 tsp dried
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
a large handful of parsley leaves, chopped, with 1 plump garlic clove
3/4 c. Gruyère or smoked mozzarella
freshly grated parmesan (I omitted this, and just put a little more Gruyère on top instead)
1 cup cream or half-and-half

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Before baking.

After baking.

After baking.

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4 thoughts on “The Most Exciting of Days, and a Gratin

  1. I SWEAR IT WOULD HAVE BEEN REALLY GOOD WITHOUT CREAM. also i had to change my passover menu because too many of the dishes called for lots and lots of cream. there needs to be an end in sight!
    thanks for bragging for me. =)

  2. i loved this post. The recipe looks great and I love how you changed it to make it healthier. Also, thank you julie for noting her incredible time. I also really really really really love your new, old pyrex mixing bowls! They are perfection. Do they come in purple?

  3. I do not think my bowls come in anything close to purple, but there are other pyrex styles that are purple, so you can search etsy for them. they aren’t as awesome though (just translucent purplish plain glass).

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