Thursday, July 28, 2016

Valerie's Adventures in Cooking: Sweet Potato Kale Gratin

While visiting a farmer's market over 4th of July weekend, I ran across a vendor who was selling damaged produce at 50% off. Never one to resist a good bargain, I stocked up on all the vegetables that actually meet my dietary restrictions, one of which was a lone sweet potato.

Today, only 3½ weeks after purchasing the sweet potato, I got around to actually cooking it. Normally with a sweet potato, I'd slice it up, dip it in oil, and bake it, in the hopes that it would turn into sweet potato fries (usually it turns into sweet potato mush with crispy edges, but a girl can dream), but I have a bag of heat-and-serve sweet potato fries in the freezer, and I have confidence that those would taste better than any fries I could ever whip up myself, so it was time to try a new recipe: Sweet Potato & Kale Gratin.* Who's ready for an Adventure in Cooking!?

Sweet Potato & Kale Gratin (VAiC Style!)


  • 3 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (Well, you already have a problem, because your lone sweet potato is only 6 ounces. Decide to just make a third of the recipe and round out that first pound with a regular potato.)
  • 1 large bunch (about 1 lb.) kale, tough stems removed and leaves torn into bite-sized pieces (A third of a bunch = well, just about all the kale you have—how convenient!)
  • 1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese (Lacking parmesan cheese, think back to another similar recipe you found that used white cheddar. You don't have that either, but you do have yellow cheddar, which is basically the same, right? Right! One third of that is...ah...we'll figure that out later!)
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream (Who keeps whipping cream in their house!? Plan on using a single-serving tub of yogurt instead, until you open it up and realize it's actually sweetened vanilla yogurt. Not going to fly. Instead, get out the last packet of dried milk in your pantry. It will have to do, even though the creator of the recipe is quite adamant that you only use real whipping cream).
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg (Nutmeg sounds gross in a gratin. Leave that out.)
  • 2 tbsp. Organic Valley salted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more to grease baking dish
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Steam kale for about 3 minutes, or until wilted, in a large steamer basket set over boiling water. Nonsense! Dump that kale in a 2-qt casserole dish, pour some water on top, and microwave for 2 minutes! You just saved a minute! Pat yourself on the back. Squeeze out excess water.
  3. Place half of the potatoes in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Since you have drastically reduced this recipe, 9x13 is going to be far too much. You can do it in that same casserole dish you heated the kale in. You just saved yourself from washing a dish! Pat yourself on the back.
  4. Top potatoes with kale, then top kale with half of the cheese. Since you haven't actually measured out the cheese, just grab handfuls of it and sprinkle it on until it looks nice. Misread the previous instruction and top the potatoes with only half the kale. Place remaining potatoes in dish and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese (another generous handful). Top the whole pile with the other half of the kale.
  5. To make the milk substitute for whipping cream, pour most of the packet of powdered milk in a bowl (no need to be precise here; you never are) and dump a little water on top. Whisk together until it looks approximately like the consistency of whipping cream. Taste-test. Wow! It's super-sweet! You didn't remember that milk was so sugary!
  6. Whisk together the "whipping cream", extra salt to counteract the sweetness in the milk, extra pepper to do the same, and pour over casserole. 
  7. Dot with butter. By dot, I mean haphazardly cut a few chunks out of a lump of margarine that's been sitting in your fridge and wipe them clumsily on the kale, wishing they would be a little less attached to the knife. While you're wishing, wish you could use all of the margarine because you hate having partially eaten sticks of shortening lying around, but refrain because your cheese choices have already raised the heart attack quotient of this dish by at least 4 points.
  8. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil (haha! this is where using the casserole dish really pays off! You can just cover with the lid, and save a big old sheet of foil! Pat yourself on the back.)
  9. Decide that since your casserole has turned out pretty deep, you might want to cook longer and at a lower temperature. Reduce oven to 350 degrees.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove casserole lid and bake for 25 minutes more, or until potatoes are tender and cheese is golden brown. Allow to sit 15 minutes before serving, preferably while taking your obligatory photos.

The verdict:

Surprisingly good for an Adventure in Cooking! The potatoes turned out mostly tender, the watery milk mixture mostly evaporated away to an ideal thickness, the sweetness of the milk mostly wasn't noticeable, and the kale that I accidentally placed on top didn't burn but turned nice and crispy and delicious. In fact, my least favorite thing about the product of this Adventure was the one thing that was by design from the beginning: I wasn't really crazy about the sweetness of the sweet potato paired with the saltiness of everything else. It's a good thing I had to use a regular potato, because that enabled me to have at least a few bites that weren't sweet.

*The original recipe was found on the Oh My Veggies blog.


Martha S said...

I'm always ready for an VAiC! This one looks delicious.