Sweet Potato Apple and Gruyere Gratin
Growing up we had potatoes au gratin from a box normally. For a long time my mom was a single parent and worked a good 40 hours plus a week so anything to get dinner on the table was what she did. She always had dinner on the table though. No matter what meal, we always sat down to eat together. Even before school for breakfast. I don’t always accomplish that with my family but I did get my love of cooking from her. She is a great cook. Not everything she made came from box or was a quickly prepared item but especially during the week we had simple dishes. Oh and today is her birthday!!! Happy birthday Mom! I love you. In thinking about that, I decided to make my own version of au gratin but I shook things up a bit and made Sweet Potato Apple and Gruyere Gratin! It’s savory and sweet all at the same time. I loved it and am craving it again today!
Did you know that gratin is a French word pronounced grah-taaan instead of the way we normally pronounce it? I’ve started saying it correctly but no one knows what I’m talking about. Gratin is traditionally referred to as the tasty crust left behind in the pan after baking, made with bread crumbs or cheese and is scraped off and eaten as a bonus for the chef. That’s exactly what it is in this house because I’m always picking away at the best parts before I have a chance to serve it. This was no exception.
You may think I put together an odd combination? Firm sweet potatoes, fresh, crisp, tart granny smith apples, savory gruyere and white cheddar cheeses layered with a vanilla, almost custard and topped with brown sugar and dried cherries all browned and gooey. Wow! It was so good and not odd at all even though it sounds that way. You will believe me when you take the first bite and want to stand by the dish and eat the entire thing like I did.
It’s a very different dish that isn’t difficult at all. I find my self saying that a lot. I guess it’s kind of my slogan or something but I enjoy the eating of the food more than the preparing so I go for things that are somewhat simple in nature. That doesn’t mean something isn’t good though, just because it’s easy.
The only element of this recipe that isn’t super simple is the cutting of the potatoes and apples. I use a mandolin and that makes it super simple. It’s not necessary but it does get the slices completely uniform which helps it bake better. They’re sold in all ranges from super pricey to fairly inexpensive but to me it’s worth the investment. A good mandolin will last for years and can slice just about anything. It will even julienne and waffle cut and no one really wants to do that by hand. Mine is an OXO brand and very sturdy.
I started by slicing the sweet potatoes and setting aside.
I then took a vanilla bean, split it down the middle, scraped out the seeds and made a custard with butter, cream, some nutmeg and sugar. I sliced the apples and quickly layered them with the sweet potatoes and cheese. Don’t do them early or they’ll turn brown. if you do it using the timeline below, they won’t have time.
I poured the custard over the layers and topped with brown sugar and dried cherries. If you don’t like gruyere, use another cheese or leave it out. If you don’t like cherries use cranberries. I came up with this recipe because I like these ingredients but use whatever you have on hand or what you like the most. My goal is to teach people how to make a recipe their own easy for them. So experiment!
Recipe: Sweet Potato, Apple & Gruyere Gratin
Summary: Savory and sweet, gooey and chewy all in one.
- 2 large sweet potatoes, sliced thin
- 2 large Granny Smith apples, sliced thin
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 stick butter
- 2 cups plus 1/2 cup cream divided
- pinch nutmeg
- pinch salt
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup gruyere cheese, sliced
- 1 cup sharp white cheddar, shredded
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup dried cherries or other dried fruit
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Grease 2 1/2 qt casserole dish.
- Layer 1 sliced sweet potato in dish with the edges overlapping and set aside.
- Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Slice vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape seeds out with a knife and add to butter along with 2 cups of cream, nutmeg, salt and 2 tablespoons sugar.
- Let simmer very low for 10 minutes.
- Add flour to 1/2 cup cold cream and dissolve completely.
- Slowly add to vanilla mixture and bring temperature up to medium stirring frequently. When bubbles form at the edges remove from heat. It should begin to thicken at this point.
- Slice apples and layer 1 over sweet potatoes with the edges overlapping.
- Layer half the cheese over the apples.
- Pour half the vanilla custard mixture over the top.
- Repeat the process with remaining ingredients.
- Press down with your hands (they will get a little messy) making sure the custard like liquid gets in all the layers.
- Bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour until the edges are good and bubbly.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle top liberally with brown sugar and dried cherries.
- Broil 3-4 minutes to get a crusty top and melt the brown sugar.
Serve warm and enjoy!
Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: 40-60 minutes
Number of servings (yield): 6-8
If you made a gratin, what ingredients would you use, traditional or something different? Try this one and let me know. I promise it’s better than you imagine!