Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sweet Potato Galette with Spinach and Fontina: Countdown to T-Day!

For Thanksgiving, I absolutely must have a sweet potato side dish, but I am forever baffled as to why anyone would insist on sweetening this delicious, nutritious vegetable to within an inch of its life, then topping it with mini marshmallows as a final insult. I don’t mind lightly candied sweet potatoes done in a skillet with butter and a bit of brown sugar, but a savory preparation is so much less cloying and heavy, especially when a good serving of fresh spinach is tucked into the package.

This galette, crisp and caramelized on the outside and tender within, is a new recipe that turned out to be my favorite in our pre-Thanksgiving feast. Richness comes not from cream and sugar, but a layer of aged fontina cheese. A good fontina melts without a fight, adding an earthiness to the bright, garlicky spinach and sweet spuds. The galette can be completely cooked hours ahead and re-warmed in a low oven or even a microwave, if you’re hard pressed. It is delicious just slightly warm or at room temperature.

The most important trick to cooking this galette is cutting the potatoes as thinly as you possibly can (Thank you, Mike!). A mandoline would make easy work of this, but we did fine without one. Although, after cutting all those paper-thin potato slices, Mike might be in the market for an adjustable blade slicer as one of my Christmas gifts. What I like most about this galette, aside from the fabulous taste, is that it looks like much more of a hassle than it really is. I could eat this as a meal with bread and salad, but it is definitely a classy take on the requisite sweet potato side dish.

Sweet Potato Galette with Spinach and Fontina
Making this for the first time, I let the first layer of potatoes cook for a while before building the rest of galette. This would account for the particularly burnished appearance of the finished dish, but I love veggies caramelized to the point of blackened, so I didn’t mind. For a lighter coloring, just proceed immediately with the rest of the layers and transfer to the oven as soon as the potatoes on the bottom start to take on some color, as directed below.

Inspired by two recipes in Gourmet, Sept. ‘06
Serves 4-6

2 tsp. olive oil
1-10oz. bag baby spinach, thick stems removed
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper

1 tblsp. olive oil
½ tblsp. butter
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced crosswise, 1/16 inch thick
¾ c. grated fontina cheese
½ tblsp. melted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (if your oven is on a lower temp. for the turkey, just extend the cooking time of the galette slightly). Heat 2 tsp. oil in a heavy, nonstick, oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach (in batches, if necessary) and sauté until beginning to wilt. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes or until the spinach is completely wilted. Remove to a bowl and wipe out the skillet.

Heat 1 tblsp. oil and the butter in the skillet over medium heat. Arrange slices of sweet potato in a circular pattern in the skillet. Crowd the slices over the whole surface area, overlapping them, as they will shrink up a little when cooked. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover the sweet potatoes with the spinach. Arrange another layer of sweet potatoes the same way and season with salt and pepper. Cover with the fontina and a final layer of sweet potatoes and seasoning. Press down with a spatula or your hands to help mesh the layers. When the bottom layer of potatoes starts turning golden, drizzle the melted butter over the top and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the galette is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. If you like, you can run the galette under the broiler for a minute at the end to crisp the top, but be careful not to burn the potatoes. Let the galette cool in the skillet for 10-15 minutes. Fit a plate over the galette, and invert the skillet to release it. Serve warm or at room temperature.


s'kat said...

Now that is a really interesting take! Love it!! Sadly, I am pretty certain that my family is inexorably entrenched in the traditional marshmallow-sweet potatoes.

Ah well, a girl can dream!

KB04090 said...

I made this to take to a Thanksgiving celebration. My only variation was that I par boiled the slided spuds for approximately 7 minutes. I did so to facilitate layering and remove some of the starch. Enormous success! Thanks for your recipe.