Sweet Potato, Ham and Kale Gratin
The minute the weather begins shifting from the broiling heat of Arizona’s summers to a more temperate warmth that beckons the onset of Fall, I start breaking out my sweaters. It’s way too soon, I know it, but we don’t have much of an autumn here in northern AZ. It’s super-duper screaming hot for three long months, then it turns warm for week or two, then that deliciously glorious “nip” in the air is upon us. I have mere weeks to enjoy it, not a full month or two.
So feel free to scoff and judge me when you see me headed off to work in sweaters and scarves with the temp still hovering above 70-degrees. It’s my dream-world and you can come hang out and be blissful with me, or care about more petty things.
Our differences put to rest, I think we can all agree that there’s nothing quite like a sweet and savory casserole to welcome cooler weather and the upcoming holidays. That’s really what this “gratin” is – it’s just a fancy-pants way of saying “super yummy, cheesy, casserole”. A one-dish wonder of sweet potatoes, kale, thinly sliced ham and gruyere cheese and it’s going to be something you’ll want to make over and over again.
I adapted the original recipe from Food and Wine to accommodate my love for sweet and savory, and my attempt at eating a more Paleo-centric diet. I’m still rather new to Paleo and I’ve been reading through lots of cookbooks and blogs, hoping to find recipes that will help me get healthier. What I’ve found is, frustratingly, a lot of different ideas on what foods should be considered “Paleo”. It depends on who you’re reading that day …
Ultimately, the goal is to eliminate grains and curb carbohydrate consumption. To some, “white” potatoes, such as baking, russet, wax, Yokon Gold, etc., are considered a no-no starch that contributes too many carbohydrates. To others, they consider it a fine part of their Paleo consumption. Both camps seem to accept the sweet potato as a fine substitute. The original recipe calls for baking potatoes. Feel free to use them here if you don’t like sweet potatoes, but I ADORE SWEET POTATOES, and they worked SO well in this dish. The slightly sweet ‘taters were a perfect match with the salty ham and Swiss cheese.
Slight side-note here, there is a difference between yams and sweet potatoes. Yams are a bit darker orange in color and I feel, sweeter even than regular sweet potatoes. If you can only find fresh yams, feel free to use them. Canned yams are not going to work in this recipe. If you use them I will hunt you down.
In addition to my substitution of sweet potatoes, I made a few other changes to the original recipe (available here if you’d like to stick to it specifically) based simply on my personal tastes and what I had in the ice-box. This is what I’m really beginning to enjoy with my cooking; reading a recipe that inspires me to bang about in the kitchen but to feel free enough to riff on it. I substituted low-sodium, thinly sliced deli ham instead of Canadian bacon. I did this because I knew I would be slicing the sweet potatoes quite thinly with a mandoline. You can cut your potatoes as thinly or as thickly as you’d like with a sharp knife, but I love the transparent thinness a mandoline produces. I wanted my ham to be thin as well – I wanted those two textures to be similar.
Instead of the Swiss chard the recipe called for, I used kale because that’s what I had on-hand and wanted to use up. Kale is a bit heartier than Swiss chard, so I sauteed it longer than what you would the chard because I wanted the texture to be quite soft. Keep this in mind depending on the greens you’re using and how tender or “to-the-tooth” you like them.
Can you see what we’re doing here? We’re making this freakin’ casserole our own! Can’t find Gruyere cheese? Don’t panic! Get some Swiss! They’re very similar.
Below is my recipe. Feel free to follow it to the letter (like my mom would :)) or twist it up a bit!
Sweet Potato, Ham and Kale Gratin
Adapted from recipe on Foodandwine.com
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 pound kale, large stems removed, leaves cut crosswise into approximately 1-inch ribbons
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2), peeled and sliced thin with a mandoline (or sliced with a sharp knife to your desired thickness)
- 1/4 pound Gruyère, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 pound thinly sliced deli ham
- 2/3 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
- Heat the oven to 425°. In a medium frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over moderately low heat. Add the kale and cook until starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook until no liquid remains in the pan, about 3 minutes.
- Butter an 8-by-8-inch baking pan or similarly sized gratin dish. Layer one third of the potatoes in the dish and top with 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper, a third of the cheese, and half the ham. Spread the kale in a single layer. Top with half the remaining potatoes and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Spread half the remaining cheese and the remaining ham over the potatoes. Add the remaining potatoes to the dish, sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and top with the remaining cheese and 1 tablespoon butter. Pour the chicken broth over all.
- Cover the gratin with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the potatoes are tender and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes longer. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes before cutting.