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.
Reprinted with permission from The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2 by Amanda Hesser and Merill Stubbs, copyright 2012. Published by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Yield:serves 12
- Active time: 25 minutes
- Total time:1 hour and 10 minutes
- 2 medium sweet potatoes (1 pound)
- 4 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (1 cup)
- 4 ounces pancetta, cut into small dice (1 cup)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
Heat the oven to 400°F. Generously coat a 12-cup muffin tin with butter, oil, or nonstick cooking spray.
Peel the sweet potatoes and slice into 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Put a slice of the sweet potato into each muffin cup. Top each with about a teaspoon of the shredded Gruyère and diced pancetta; sprinkle with a little salt and white pepper. Repeat twice, overlapping smaller sweet potato slices if necessary to make a full layer and using all the slices. Scatter the remaining cheese and pancetta on top. Spoon a tablespoon of heavy cream on top of each gratin.
Cover the pan loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing the gratins from the muffin tin and serving.