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Thanksgiving 101: Gratin of Sweet Potatoes and Leeks

Thanksgiving 101: Gratin of Sweet Potatoes and Leeks
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        My friend Betty once told me a riotous story of being invited to a Thanksgiving dinner and being asked to “bring something”.  When she arrived on the big day, there were 12, count ’em, sweet potato casseroles.  Lesson learned: If you’re going ‘potluck’ on Turkey Day, assign the side dishes.  And you couldn’t do much better than this deliciously rich gratin. It’s a true example of  over-the-top Thanksgiving cooking. Fair warning…this is one of the richest things (aka fatty) I’ve made in a very long time.  But it was so delicious and really satisfying in tiny portions that I’d make again in a heartbeat…assuming I still had a pulse after consuming the pancetta and cream involved in the dish.
The other great thing about this dish is that it benefits from being made ahead. You can put the whole thing together a couple of days in advance and take it right up to the baking stage on the big day.  It also is very forgiving and can be cooked longer than the time given which is always a huge help when you’re putting together your Thanksgiving dinner.  Another advantage to it’s timing is that it’s a lot easier to serve in beautiful little squares if it rests before serving.
All in all, it’s a winner in every way.

I adapted this recipe from Fine Cooking. I do highly recommend the magazine. It really explains things extremely well and it illustrates virtually everything it talks about.  This dish was initially published in a story about Easter Ham.  So for those who bought ham at www.MontesHam.com for this Thanksgiving, a shout-out to you all.  Thank you for making this selling period such a success. If you haven’t ordered your Monte’s Ham for Thanksgiving, today would be a great day to do so. But this gratin would make a welcome addition to any roast you were serving, including a big beautiful roast turkey.What I changed about the recipe was to increase the number of leeks used and, believe it or not, to lower the amount of cream recommended.  I went full strength on the pancetta.  If you have a mandolin, this is the time to use it.  You can create the most perfect and uniform slices of potato.  My children gave me a mandolin for Christmas a few years ago and it’s amazing how much I use it.  It’s the OXO mandolin and I’d order one right now.  You have to be very careful with the blade and I find the thingamajig that is supposed to protect your hand is difficult to use.  But once you’ve got the hang of it, you won’t believe how simple it is to achieve perfection.  Not to brag, but I think this looks incredibly good.  But please, if you have no mandolin, just thinly slice the potatoes with a regular knife.  Here’s the recipe:


4 thoughts on “Thanksgiving 101: Gratin of Sweet Potatoes and Leeks”

  • Wow Monte, there's not a thing not to like about this dish… I am going to start working on Lauren now to try it..
    Always good stuff you have here, love the blog, keep up the good work!
    All the Best,

  • Monte, We just finished our wonderful Thanksgiving DInner in Hong Kong. Since we are 13 hrs ahead, I wanted to be the first to comment on your suggested recipes. The Sweet Potato and Leek Gratin was yummy and perfectly rich along side of the turkey. The only item missing was Monte's Ham instead of the local Chinese version. And of course, Jill's Cranberry Citrus Relish is a delicious mainstay for this holiday dinner. I want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving! Richard and the Kligler Clan

  • Richard, how great to hear from you. I had noticed a major uptick in visitors from Hong Kong and now I know why. Happy Thanksgiving to all the Kliglers. Maybe next year we can all do this together! Monte

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