Do me a favor and throw all expectations you have about gratins out the window because this is not your ordinary gratin. It's layered like a gratin, cooked like a gratin, but it is so much more than a gratin. You know how they say, don't judge a book by its cover? If there was ever a time on this blog to apply this principle, now would be it.
This is more like a gratin casserole with layers of thinly sliced sweet potato, onion, and orange-scented wild rice. It is baked in a coconut milk base flavored with garlic, lime, and red pepper flakes that imparts a lovely, tangy-sweet richness with a hint of spice. This is a rich and satisfying gratin elevated with citrus notes to compliment the sweet potato and wild rice and finished with chopped, toasted hazelnuts for a welcome crunch. Although it is not the most photogenic of dishes, please don't hold that against it. The proof is in the pudding, er casserole, because this baby has some serious substance.
This gratin was inspired by a recent client who wanted to go on an elimination diet to identify food sensitivities. I was collecting recipes suitable for the diet and tailored to her preferences for meal types (i.e. soups, salads, pasta, etc), but when she told me she liked to make casseroles, that's when I realized I had nothing at all to give her. I didn't have a single casserole recipe in my personal repertoire and a Google search proved that elimination diet-friendly casseroles were not easy to come by. Needless to say this casserole resulted, and if I can say so myself, it is a keeper. And you certainly don't have to be on an elimination diet to enjoy it.
In fact, I'm sharing it with you now because it is the perfect substantial side for Thanksgiving or another holiday meal, and it takes care of the grain and vegetable in one. Plus it doesn't leave out anyone who is lactose intolerant or sensitive to gluten. It would also be a wonderful centerpiece for a vegetarian or vegan meal. Add an arugula salad with crunchy, thinly sliced fennel, orange segments, avocado and a sharp dressing, and you have a perfect meal. Or at least it was a perfect meal for us for a couple of nights last week.
Sweet Potato Gratin
Serves 6 (as a main) - 8 (as a side)
Notes: If you cook off the rice and slice the sweet potato in advance this dish can be assembled in 15 minutes. And if hazelnuts are not your thing, substitute macadamia nuts instead.
- 1.4 lbs/644 gr sweet potatoes (~2 medium)
- 3/4 cup/133 gr uncooked wild rice
- 1 large orange
- 1 medium yellow onion
- Coconut-Lime Milk (recipe below)
- Couple handfuls toasted hazelnuts, chopped
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C)
- Scrub sweet potatoes; leave skin on if organic and thinly slice using a mandolin (using the "thin" slicer, not "extra thin") or a steady hand and sharp knife. Thinly slice onion with knife.
- Cook rice according to package directions; drain any excess water not absorbed. Add zest of orange and juice of 1/4 of the orange to rice; season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Lightly grease a large gratin or deep baking dish (~3 qrt. capacity) with coconut oil. Layer 1/3 sweet potato slices, overlapping slightly, and 1/2 of onion slices. Season with salt and pepper, evenly distribute 1/2 wild rice mixture, and pour over 1/3 coconut milk. Repeat, finishing with final 1/3 sweet potatoes and final 1/3 coconut milk.
- Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake 35-45 minutes, or until a knife can be easily inserted in sweet potato. Uncover dish, sprinkle with hazelnuts, set oven to broil, and return to oven without foil to brown slightly; another 5-8 minutes.
- 500 ml (2 1/4 cups) full-fat coconut milk
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed with a garlic press
- zest of 1 lime + juice 1/2 lime
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Mix all ingredients in a large measuring cup or mixing bowl with a spout.
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