By Mat Herban
Holiday cooking for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukkah or any other winter occasion means putting out a fancy meal, but one that includes comfort foods that everyone loves. Potatoes always seem to figure into the mix because whatever the entrée meat may be, potatoes will complement it and they are also a wonderful background for gravy or sauces.
The two-potato dishes that follow are outstanding for their flavor. And equally important, they can be prepared ahead and baked just before serving. In fact, the two potato gratin could even be cooked the day before and reheated for the holiday feast.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a medium casserole dish about 3 inches deep. As this is a layered dish, the ingredient amounts will be determined by the size of your dish and how many guests you have. It is important to cover the casserole for the first 45 minutes so the potatoes can absorb the liquid and cook in it. After that, uncover the dish so it can brown on top and the sauce can evaporate and thicken.
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 Tbs. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg (freshly grated has more taste)
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 tsp. pepper, or to taste (freshly ground if you have it)
1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Layer ingredients as follows: white potatoes, thyme, nutmeg, salt, pepper and a little cream. Then make a sweet potato layer with the same seasonings and some cream. Continue layering until everything is used, finishing with seasonings and cream. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 45 minutes more or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Serves six.
Sweet Potato “Pudding”
This yummy casserole can be served as a main course item or as a dessert with a mound of whipped cream. Sweetened with brown sugar and seasoned with cinnamon, it could make a sweet potato lover out of the most determined rebel! This pairs beautifully with turkey or pork.
All the ingredients in this recipe get put in the blender. The mixture gets very thick and sometimes needs to be pushed around with a wooden spoon between spins, but you want it to be really thick so it cooks into a custard.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a six-cup casserole. The flatter the casserole, the faster this dish will cook. Be advised that if the mixture is more than 3 inches deep, it can take a long time.
1 pint (2 cups) medium cream
3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 tsps. cinnamon
Ingredients for Topping
1/2 cup slivered almonds
4 Tbs. melted butter
1/2 cup bourbon or rum (optional—flamed and added just before serving)
Put all ingredients in blender, dividing into two batches if necessary. In that case, just split the ingredients up a bit and when they are all pureed, mix them together well. Don’t try to divide the eggs exactly, just put one into the first batch and two into the second. When everything is pureed and mixed, pour it into the casserole. Then top with almonds and melted butter. At this point, the casserole can be chilled for as long as a day, but bring it to room temperature before baking.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until firm (check after one hour). As it cooks, it will dome up some, so don’t fill the dish to the top. When it is removed from the oven it will settle a bit. If you use the bourbon or rum, put it in a pan with a handle and carefully heat it over a low flame. Light it with a long-handled match and pour the burning liquid over the casserole. Serve at once or keep it warm until the rest of the meal is ready.