Update: This gratin made the Top 9 on Foodbuzz. Thank you for all the love-buzzes and more importantly, for stopping by with your kindest words about the loss of our Bruce Lee. I have the best friends, readers and followers!
The plan was to make this gratin completely potato-filled, but I couldn't get hold of regular (orange) sweet potatoes so I added carrots instead. Then the dilemma came up as to whether I should call this a potato gratin because of the presence of the carrots. Well, at least I can call it pretty, yes, that's it... a pretty, colorful sidekick to any entrée on a plate.
When I made this, I also ran out of fresh herbs (yes, it was one of those blaaah, bland days in the pantry), but if I'd had some, I would've sprinkled oregano or thyme along with the cheese and imagined this creamy gratin would've tasted even better than it already did.
Anyway, I do have to warn you that the hardest part about making this dish is the slicing involved. If you don't have a mandoline and you plan to make this, perhaps now's the time to invest in one! The vegetables have to be thin enough for the layers to sit together comfortably and elegantly. I alternated rows of carrots, regular potatoes and purple sweet potatoes until I reached the end of the baking pan. The pieces of chopped garlic at the bottom of the dish, hidden underneath all the potatoes, carrots, cream and cheese, provided the lovely savory flavor.
As soon as the dish came out of the oven, it dawned on me that the color of the purple sweet potatoes had surrepticiously seeped out and tainted the whole gratin slightly lilac. Oh well, it was still pretty and more importantly, tasted pretty darn good!
I know that the kids in this house will read this blog someday and because of that, I wanted to give a special mention of our beautiful, white cat. He died last night after a bout of illness, leaving the kids (and adults) distraught. He had only been with us for a little less than six months but even when we'd first brought him into our household, he was already a sickly little fellow. The kids adored him completely and on his good days, he eagerly awaited their return from school so they could play with him. Other than that, he was my constant companion in the kitchen, curling up quietly in the warmest spot on the rug. He was such a well-behaved cat, a complete anomaly in our experience with felines so far.
We named him Bruce Lee, perhaps subconciously wishing that he would be as strong as his superstar namesake. Like his namesake though, his passing was untimely. A million trips (it was a lot) to the vet couldn't fix what was raging inside his tiny broken body and when he finally took his last breath, he was wrapped in warm blankets, ironically, in the kitchen. This morning we buried Bruce Lee in our garden, under the shade of one of our many fruit trees. Before they left for school, the children picked some colorful tropical flowers to place carefully upon his burial site.
The house suddenly seems so quiet today. Yes, we're totally missing him.
Our beautiful Bruce Lee, RIP.
Technicolor Gratin with Potatoes, Carrots and Purple Sweet Potatoes
Serves: 4 to 6 people
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
Unsalted butter, for baking dish
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced finely with a mandoline
1 large purple sweet potato, peeled and sliced finely with a mandoline
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced finely with a mandoline
Sea salt and pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Handful of shredded Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Butter the inside of an ovenproof dish, around 12 x 8.5-inch, and at least 6cms deep. Rub dish with 2 halves of one garlic clove. Dice the garlic and place them at the bottom of the dish; set aside.
2. In a pot, heat the milk and heavy cream. Add the pinch of nutmeg and remaining garlic, which has been finely diced. Bring to a simmer and then turn off the heat.
3. Tightly arrange the potato and carrot slices inside the dish, alternating between 1 layer of potatoes, purple sweet potatoes and carrot. Repeat until you run out of ingredients.
4. Pour the milk/cream batter over the vegetables – mixture should cover the vegetables. Season with sea salt and pepper. Top with the grated Parmesan cheese.
5. Bake the gratin for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top is a golden color. When the mixture bubbles while it is being baked, purple color will seep from the purple sweet potatos and the gratin will take on a lilac hue. Serve warm as a side dish.