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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

You Say Potato...

What's in a name?
Gratin Dauphinois, Pommes Anna, Au Gratin Potatoes, Scalloped Potatoes Au Gratin, and Scalloped Potatoes are all  variations of basically the same thing; they're names of preparations for sliced potatoes baked in butter or cream, with or without cheese, garlic, herbs, and/or breadcrumbs. Although there are classic methods for each variation, the possibilities and combinations are endless.

I'm not much of a rule follower.

 A couple of years ago, we took a gruyere laden yukon gold and red-skinned sweet potato gratin to my family holiday potluck.  Flecked with specks of fresh rosemary and layered with oozing gruyere cheese, the gratin was encased in a double rolled cheese-filled pastry crust. It might have been a little over the top,  but my family loved the curious gratin. Michael and I didn't taste a single crumb.  As the line formed around the food, we slipped out onto the chilly screened-in side deck and chugged  boxed white wine from paper Dixie Cups. By the time we finished our wine, the impressive monstrosity was completely gone.

For a recent  laid-back weeknight supper, I took a much simpler approach.

Sweet potatoes are...well...naturally sweet.  While I adore the marshmallow-topped brown sugared sweet potato casseroles that dot our holiday tables, I tend to lean toward a more savory bent when preparing them at home. Balance.

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes, with a twist.

Using my mandolin, I sliced a combination of four Madison County white-skinned and red-skinned sweet potatoes into 1/8 inch rounds. I buttered the bottom and edges of a spring form pan, dusted the butter with dried breadcrumbs, and layered the potatoes by color in a circular pattern with overlapping edges (Pommes Anna style), dotting each layer with butter, salt, and white pepper. Midway through the potato stack, I tumbled a cup of dried sour cherries onto one layer before finishing the layers with a topping of additional butter, salt, pepper, grated parmigiano reggiano, and fresh parsley.

After drizzling a cup of heavy cream over the potatoes, I tapped the pan to evenly distribute  the cream, covered it with foil, and slid it into a 350 oven to bake for 1 1/2 hours.

While the scalloped potatoes bubbled away, I soaked 1/3 cup of the dried sour cherries in equal portions of brandy and apple cider vinegar.

After an hour, I uncovered the potatoes for the remaining 30 minutes to brown the top. I drained the plumped sour cherries and used 3 tablespoons of the infused brandied vinegar to make a very basic vinaigrette ( 3 tablespoons vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper).  

I pulled the gurgling scalloped potatoes from the oven to rest and tossed baby arugula in the sour cherry brandied vinaigrette with orange zest, slivered tomatoes, and the re-hydrated cherries.

When the sweet potatoes were cool enough to slice, I nestled  delicate wedges over the arugula and served them  alongside rolled slices of leftover roast beef with  pan gravy.

Soft and creamy, the potato layers seemed to melt and  fuse together in the buttery cream. While the bronzed parmigiano cheese crust provided slight salty nuttiness, the hidden cherries cut through the richness, adding tangy tart bites with contrasting textures.

Sweet potato pie with attitude.


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