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Roasted Sweet Potato and Vanilla Bean Gratin
(recipe, Matthew Card)
While any sweet potatoes work, bright-colored Garnets are particularly good in this gratin. If the potatoes are stringy, as some varieties can be, purée the flesh in a food processor prior to whipping with the cream.
- 4½ to 5 lb. sweet potatoes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 vanilla bean
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. plus ⅔ cup brown sugar
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Poke sweet potatoes several times with a paring knife and spread potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, turning once, until very tender and easily pierced with a knife, 1 to 1½ hours. Cool (cutting in half will expedite cooling) until easily handled. Scrape flesh from skins into a large mixing bowl. (See Note.)
- Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Combine cream, bay leaf, and a generous pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Using a sharp paring knife, split vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into the cream. Add vanilla pod to the pan and bring to a simmer; cover, remove from heat, and steep for at least 10 minutes. Remove pod and bay leaf.
- Using a standing or hand-held electric mixer, whip potatoes, infused cream, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and a liberal amount of black pepper until smooth, light, and homogenously blended. Adjust seasoning to taste and evenly spread potato mixture into a 7-by-11-inch (or 9-by-13-inch) Pyrex or oven-safe baking dish. Sprinkle remaining brown sugar in an even layer across the top of the potatoes. Bake until bubbling around the edges, about 20 minutes.
- Adjust oven rack as close as possible to broiler element and broil gratin until the sugar is well browned, bubbling, and crispy, 4 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
Penzey’s Spices sells top-quality vanilla beans for moderate prices; also check the spice section of your favorite grocery store.
The sweet potatoes may be roasted and scraped from their skins one day ahead of time.
For a less-sweet dish, reduce the 2/3 cup sugar to 1/3 cup.
Need more suggestions for side dishes? Read Matthew Card's story about vegetable sides that travel well.