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[Photograph: Sarah Shatz]

For a holiday side dish, it's pretty hard to beat a gratin. They're elegant, easy, and chock-full of crowd-pleasing ingredients (unless, of course, your crowd doesn't like cheese or cream or potatoes). For a twist on the standard potato, consider cnevertz's Sweet Potato and Pancetta Gratin from the new Food52 Cookbook. The dish is a simple one with only six ingredients (including salt and pepper), but each element packs a punch. The Gruyère's funky flavor cuts the sweetness of the potatoes and richness of the cream, and the diced pancetta contributes its own salty, sweet, and spicy notes. The most unique part about this gratin, however, isn't in the ingredient list. Instead of shingling the potatoes in a large baking dish, cnevertz layers individual servings in a muffin tin, making for a button-cute finish to this easy side.

Why I picked this recipe: Gratins made with run-of-the-mill Yukons often taste one-dimensional. Changing up the tuber by using sweet potatoes seemed like a colorful solution.

What worked: The flavors here can't be beat. Funky Gruyère, sweetly caramelized potatoes, and salty pancetta make for a decadent holiday side. Building the gratin in a muffin tin just ups the cute factor.

What didn't: I had a hard time using up all of my sweet potato slices, and what looked full before going into the oven came out squat and a little skimpy. Next time, I plan on doubling up the layers of potatoes and packing them more tightly into the muffin tin. The gratins left behind a fair amount of grease in the pan—not a serious problem, but it was a little messy.

Suggested Tweaks: A commenter suggested substituting shallots for the pancetta. Not only would this make the dish vegetarian-friendly, but it would also cut down a little on the grease factor.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2 to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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