Gratins have always been one of my favorite side dishes for an elegant meal–especially in cool weather.  The bright sweet potato and pear flavors in this particular gratin are perfect with lamb, ham or roast beef.  This dish can be made ahead and just re-heated for Eater brunch.

Makes 10 to 12 servings

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 pound of finely sliced and washed leeks, (white and tender green part)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 3/4 cup cream
  • 2 tablespoons minced thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 pounds of peeled sweet potatoes — sliced 1/8” thick
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 c. finely sliced firm pears or green apples
  • 1 cup chicken stock (low sodium if purchased)
  • 1 1/3 cup grated Fontina or Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup fine breadcrumbs
  • Pre heat oven to 350°
  • Butter a 4-quart casserole

1. In a large sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of butter to sizzling.  Add the garlic, leeks and 1 teaspoon salt.  If you don’t have a very large sauté pan, you may need to cook this in 2 batches.  Sauté until the leeks are softened, about 5 minutes.  Add sherry and simmer for 3 minutes longer.  Add the cream, thyme and nutmeg.  Bring to a simmer and let cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool.

2. Combine the cooled leek mixture, sweet potatoes, chicken broth, sliced pears, remaining salt and pepper.  Toss to mix and put half into the baking dish.  Dot with half of the remaining butter.  Add remaining potato mixture and top with remaining butter.  Cover with buttered parchment or waxed paper and then foil and bake for 55 minutes. 

3. Uncover, sprinkle on grated cheese and breadcrumb.  Reduce heat to 325° and continue to bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, bubbling and golden.  Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Total baking time — about 1 1/2 hr

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