Potato, Sweet Potato and Beet Gratin

7 Aug

potato, sweet potato and beet gratinTonight, I was lazy. I wanted to spend the entire evening in bed, watching videos, but of course, I needed to cook! I have made a promise to myself to post one recipe or musing every day, and so I wandered into the kitchen to be inspired. I had beets, potatoes and sweet potatoes sitting on the counter waiting for a rosti which I want to make for Ezril. I had loads of little baking paper packages of cheese bits, all wrapped up, and needing to be used. And I had some cream and milk and garlic. Okay then, instead of a rosti, which would take lots of work over the stove, I decided on a gratin. And a gratin with beets! I needed to think this through before jumping in.

I think sometimes that cooking is about inspiration, but equally, it is about preparation. Even if you dont have a clear recipe, and want to be inspired by your ingredients, always, always take five minutes to think about how you are going to put everything together.  If you dont, even in your head, have a clear work progress plan, you will definitely forget something or an important step. Trust me! Ive done it before, with disastrous results!

Beets are gorgeous creatures, but they have one flaw (or wonderful attribute depending on your way of looking at things) – they make everything they touch turn pink! I wanted to incorporate beets into this gratin because I thought they would add an earthy unique flavour, highlighting the creaminess of the potatoes and the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. A good counterbalance. But I really needed to sit and think for a while about how I was going to keep them separate but together. So I decided to prep them all the same way, but in different bowls, and layer them instead of mix them all up. The milk/cream would bind them all together, and the cheese would act as a barrier between the beets and potatoes so they wouldnt completely bleed into each other.

I think this gratin turned out gorgeously. The garlic scented the milk, but you can still taste each individual ingredient. I love love love crusty burnt bits of cheese on anything, and this gratin gave me acres of it. And silky, creamy, rich potatoes. This is a wonderful side dish for a big group, or you can cut down on the amounts, and bake a small pan for just two. Its fantastic the next day, served for breakfast, cold, or sliced and slightly fried, with an egg. Its also great, served with a very tart (arugula) salad for lunch. Its comfort food, from the heart, without a huge amount of effort. Love it!

For a large gratin dish or casserole, you will need:

  • About 3 – 4 cups potatoes
  • 1 – 2 cup sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup beets
  • Boiling water
  • 3 + 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 – 3 tbsp butter (optional – I only use butter if I am not using cream)
  • 2 – 3 cups milk and/or cream (I used a mixture)

The preparation is all important in this recipe. You will need to keep your beets and potato mixture separate until you are ready to bake.

Peel and thinly slice your potatoes and sweet potatoes, and immerse them in cold water in a bowl. Peel and thinly slice your beets, and immerse them in cold water in a bowl. Allow the potatoes and beets to sit for at least 10 minutes. This will encourage some of the starch to come out.

Boil some water, drain the cold water from your potatoes, put them back in the bowl, and slice 3 cloves of garlic over. Cover the potatoes completely with boiling water.  Do the same for your beets, slicing 2 cloves of garlic over. Leave in the boiling water for 15 minutes or so. They will not cook, but they will get a little bit softer. This is what you want.

Meanwhile, grate about 2 – 3 cups of cheese. I used a mix of cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella and pecorino. This was what I had in left over bits in the fridge, and what was available. Swiss cheese, like Gruyere, is more traditional, but I like the process of using up left over bits and pieces.

Drain the potatoes and beets and place back in their individual bowls.

Preheat your oven to 180C

Lightly butter a large baking dish. I use my high casserole dish, because I like layers in my gratin!

Layer a thin layer of beets, salt and pepper them, dot with a bit of butter if you are using, and cover with some cheese. Layer some potatoes, salt and pepper them, and cover with cheese. Continue like this until you have used up all your ingredients. I usually end up with 4 – 6 layers, always trying to end with potatoes. Add a final layering of cheese over the top.

Pour in about 2 cups milk/cream mixture until 2/3rd of the way up to the top layer of cheese. It will vary depending on your dish. Push everything down a bit into the cream. Bake in the oven for at least an 1 hour, possibly up to 2, checking every now and then that you dont need extra milk/cream (you really shouldnt, but add more if you think it needs it). Check to see if the gratin is done by forking a bit of potato – it should be tender, and break under very little pressure.

Take out of the oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

4 Responses to “Potato, Sweet Potato and Beet Gratin”

  1. Tes August 7, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    Wow this gratin looks so amazing! I have never tried potato and beet combo before.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Tes

  2. goddessmoments August 8, 2010 at 3:16 am #

    Acres of burnt bits of cheese… oh my!! Droooolll 🙂

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