Sweet Potato Gratin


I wrote a post a couple of years ago when I started this blog, called “Please – No Marshmallows!” Of course, I was referring to the rampant use of marshmallows on sweet potatoes in the U.S. Now, if you love this combination – great! What I have to say will not deter you. But I’ve just never understood putting something so sweet on something sweet. I mean, for god’s sake, they’re called sweet potatoes for a reason. Do you put sugar on a slice of cake?

I remember the first time I had sweet potatoes with marshmallows. It was my second year of college and I wasn’t able to fly home just for Thanksgiving, so I went with a roommate to her parents’ home in Los Angeles. I was so excited about having a “normal” Thanksgiving meal because I’d always been so deprived of traditional dishes.

My mother was a chef in her own right. She’s French, and I think all French people must be fabulous cooks. We never knew how spoiled we were with her cooking. She only used fresh ingredients, and I don’t remember her ever opening a can. We certainly never ever ate fast food.

Being French, however, and the fact that she always disliked turkey, which I think a lot of French people do, she never embraced the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. The last Thanksgiving meal I had at her home was duck a l’orange. Okay, it’s good. But I yearned for turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes with those darn marshmallows.

So then I got my chance, in 1974. My friend’s family was very sweet and embraced me like one of their own. In fact, there was no yelling or throwing of pots, which was something else I wasn’t used to.

Then came dinner. Oh my. I guess my taste buds were quite sophisticated at my young age, and hopefully I didn’t show my reaction to the various dishes, but I was horrified. The turkey was dry, the stuffing was stove-top, which is a very popular American boxed brand, and the sweet potatoes were smothered in melted marshmallows. To make things even worse, the pumpkin pie was purchased and came in a litle foil pan. And then cool whip… I can’t go on.

Sweet potatoes are a fabulous vegetable, and to me, they shine with the addition of garlic. And butter and cream. And cheese. They’re also fabulous mashed, but today I’m making them into a gratin. And I’m using Reblochon, one of my favorite stinky cow cheeses.
There are so many ways to make a potato gratin from scratch, but I’m par-boiling the sweet potato slices in order to speed up the baking process. It’s an extra step, but sometimes it seems like it takes forever for sliced potatoes to bake in cream. And you end up with dish of milky, uncooked potatoes. So I’m just helping their cooking along, and that way less cream is required as well. So here’s what I did.

Sweet Potato and Reblochon Gratin

4 medium-sized sweet potatoes
2 ounces butter
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup 1/2 & 1/2 or heavy cream
16 ounces Reblochon, or Gruyere, or Fontina

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peel the potatoes and slice them using a mandoline or a food processor.
Bring pasta pot filled with salted water to a boil on the stove over high heat.

Add the sweet potatoes and cook them for 5 minutes. The cooking time will depend on how thinly you sliced them. Mine are approximately 1/8″ thick.
Remove the potatoes and let them drain in the sink. I prefer to use a pasta pot with the insert, so the slices don’t break apart when they’re poured into a colander. Let them cool.
In a small pot, melt the butter and add the garlic. Stir for just a few seconds, then pour in the cream.

Reduce the mixture to approximately 1/3 cup.

Slice the cheese however way you can. I kept the cheese chilled to facilitate slicing, but soft cheeses are always a little more challenging.
Using an appropriately sized oven-proof baking dish, well buttered, place one layer of sweet potatoes into the dish. Add cheese, then continue, alternating sweet potatoes and cheese.

Make sure to season the sweet potatoes with salt and pepper.

Then carefully pour the cream mixture over the top.

Bake until the cheese has melted and is golden brown, approximately 25 minutes.
Let the gratin cool slightly and set. It’s easier to slice that way.
Because of the Reblochon in this gratin, it takes a pretty strong protein like a filet mignon or lamb chop to pair well with this gratin. Tomorrow I’m serving it with ham.
It will also keep well in the refrigerator, and can be heated in the oven or microwave.

So try sweet potatoes once without the marshmallows. Only that way you can truly taste their sweet goodness.

And by the way, I deleted my post called, “Please – No Marshmallows!” I wrote the post before I realized that posts should contain decent photos! Now, white balance is my friend!

57 thoughts on “Sweet Potato Gratin

  1. As an unwitting Brit, I read your post with my hand over my mouth. No! Good grief! Do they really do that? I mean us Brits have committed a fair few food sins over the years but marshmallows on sweet potatoes? Your version, however, sounds delicious. Garlic. Cream. Reblochon. What’s not to like? Gorgeous.

  2. Never understood marshmallows, and not only on sweet potatoes, but on their own. To me it is the definition of sugar overkill, and just looking at them I feel a little queasy.

    even those smores by the fire never really conquered my heart – I might grab one due to peer pressure, but dislike the mess and the sugary taste ;-)

    fun killer? who, moi?

    • Oh, thank you! I’m going through my comments and waiting for the first one that’s defensive of that traditional combo. I really don’t care, as long as people don’t make me eat them!

  3. Gorgeous and decadent. What a great combo. My husband is actually allergic to potatoes so this would be a great opportunity to showcase this classic French side with a twist!

  4. I have to laugh because I can’t stand marshmallows on top of sweet potatoes however…I make a sweet potato casserole with a brown sugar crumble topping. Yes, it’s sweet but it seems to be the first thing to disappear on Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s because it’s like having desert first. That said, I can easily see myself enjoying this.

  5. Never had something with sweet potatoes and marshmallows… sound weird… but why not try one day :-).
    I completely understand your mother. I would have done the same thing :-). I really like turkey; this is a really tasty meat. However this is a bit like chicken for us. We eat it all the time. Turkey breast, turkey leg with mustard sauce (soon on my blog), this is everyday food. To celebrate something special I would also cook an entire duck or a Bresse chapon or quails or another tasty bird :-).

  6. We actually prefer sweet potatoes to white now. Usually with just a little olive oil, s&p and rosemary. We do dress them up once in a while with some pecan. I’ve never thought about preparing them as a gratin. Amazing.

  7. The first time I saw sweet potatoes with marshmallows was when I went to live in Boston. I had never had a sweet potato in my life so I assumed sweet potato gratin was a dessert. Because of the marshmallows, right? It was not my best experience – but certainly one I remember! Reblochon sounds much MUCH better as a topping

  8. Ah, white balance – with digital photos it’s so necessary to edit a little. Or maybe you tweak camera settings.
    Would’ve loved to have seen your face back then, at the Thanksgiving meal! The only one I’ve been to was in Houston, several years ago. The food was nice. It just wasn’t hot. Found slightly warm turkey to be so strange. Fun afternoon, though.
    Have never thought of using sweet potato in a gratin. Looks and sounds delicious.

    • Warm food? Ugh. Well, it does take time to get everything out and ready for Thanksgiving. Maybe that was it? Sweet potatoes are wonderful in a gratin. Cheese isn’t even necessary!

  9. Two things grossed me out the first time I had them: sweet potatoes out of a can topped with marshmallows (we don’t even have those in Italy) and noodle kugel (what, sweet pasta?). I sort got over the sweet potatoes but I can’t get over the kugel…not even after 20 years.

  10. Wow! Now this is my idea of sweet potatoes!! I am with you on the marshmallow thing! Don’t get it either :/ Too funny about your 1974 Thanksgiving dinner – and so nice that we are evolving in NA! I am bookmarking your recipe, as I am always on the lookout for new and delicious ways to prepare one of my Fave vegetables! :D

  11. Sweet potatoes with marshmallows are more like a dessert to me. That and jello salads. I can’t eat them with my regular food. Although, I do have to say, yes, we put sugar on a slice of cake. I mean, that’s what icing is, sugar mixed with butter. But cake is good without icing, too.

    • but I could argue that cake with icing is definitely in the dessert category!!! jello salad. I’ve had it once. oh my – that’s a whole other post!!!!!

  12. Actually, I would say Jello salads are the most mystifying item in American cuisine, especially the ones that include odd savory ingredients.
    Do you have any suggestions for cheese other that what you used? I’m fairly certain I can’t find that around here.

  13. Actually, I would say Jello salads are the most mystifying item in American cuisine, especially the ones that include odd savory ingredients.
    Do you have any suggestions for cheese other that what you used? I’m fairly certain I can’t find that around here.

  14. Actually, I would say Jello salads are the most mystifying item in American cuisine, especially the ones that include odd savory ingredients.
    Do you have any suggestions for cheese other that what you used? I’m fairly certain I can’t find that around here.

  15. Marshmallows? I feel like this is something out of a surreal foodie dream, but I trust your expertise when it comes to flavour combinations :D
    I love how tasty it looks though!

    Choc Chip Uru

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