December 18, 2012 by caitlinvaclark
For Sunday Roast this week, I kept it pretty simple. We spent Saturday night at an absurd event- Guilty Pleasures Cinema Christmas Extravaganza, or something like that. It was actually quirky and ridiculous and kind of awesome. You reserve a table, get drinks, watch Bad Santa (which, along with it’s polar opposite, Love Actually, happens to be one of my Christmas favorites), followed by a dance party with a mix of both Christmasy classics and classic (i.e. Whitney- I-Wanna-Dance-With-Somebody) classics. The great part was the lack of pretension. The Brits love their kitsch. It was totally campy but not hipster. Not that I would have a clue what I’m talking about…
Okay, okay. There may have been a drunk molester of a Santa handing out vodka shots in his sleigh. So wrong. Yes. I’m too old for this. But it happened anyways.
Long story short, Sunday roast needed to be dumbed down a bit this week. So for dinner, I made a roast gammon (basically a small uncooked ham, though I haven’t seen this raw preparation readily available in the US), bought oven-ready at Marks and Spencers. And I roasted up some cabbage. I love all things roast vegetables, but if you haven’t tried this one, do it soon! So easy, just slice it, spread it out on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with your favorite seasoning, and cook with whatever else you are roasting in the oven.
In my ever growing menu for Christmas dinner, I needed to get one more practice dish in. I wanted to get my measurements right for individual Potatoes au Gratin. I’ll be making the traditional ones for Christmas, but Sunday evening, I made Sweet Potato and Red Onion Gratins. I made this recipe for 2 but it could easily be doubled or tripled if you plan to serve a bigger group.
Prep this dish by thinly slicing about 2 small (or 1 large) peeled sweet potatoes. You’ll want to par-boil these for just a couple minutes to begin the cooking process. Also, in a small skillet, lightly caramelize one red onion. Remove from the skillet and reserve.
Now you’re ready to begin the sauce by making a roux, which is equal parts butter and flour, melted and cooked together until the flour becomes lightly toasted and the texture somewhat sandy. You can do this in the same skillet you used for the onion. Then you add your milk and cream mixture. Whisk vigorously to blend the flour smoothly into the liquid. Because of the butter, the flour will not clump.
Continue stirring over a low simmer until your sauce thickens enough to create a line on the back of your spoon. (And yes, I went all Christmas festive with my red nails.) At this stage you have a traditional Béchamel Sauce. Season the sauce now, but go easy on the salt until you have added your parmesan. I add a pinch of cinnamon here which marries beautifully with sweet potatoes.
But now it’s time to add yummy yummy parmesan cheese, which kicks your sauce up a notch from a Béchamel to a Mornay Sauce. It gets a fancy name change when you add cheese to it, as any proper cheese dish deserves.
Once the cheese has been incorporated, stir in the onions and gently toss the sauce with the potatoes. Divide evenly between the two in pre-buttered ramekins and top with a sprinkle of parmesan.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and brown and gooey in all the right ways!
This dinner was Sunday comfort cooking at it’s best.
Sweet Potato and Red Onion Gratin
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. flour
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
¼ tsp fresh black pepper
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 375˚F and bring a medium pot filled with water to boil. Prepare 2 individual ramekins by buttering the edges.
Heat a small skillet over medium heat with the olive oil. Add the onions and cook until soft, 4 minutes. Lower the heat and continue to cook until lightly caramelized, about 10 more minutes. Remove from skillet and reserve.
Salt the boiling water and add the sliced sweet potatoes to the pot. Cook for 3 minutes to soften slightly. Drain and reserve.
Add the butter. Once melted, add the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Bring the heat back up to medium and whisk in the milk and cream. Continue stirring as the liquid comes to a simmer. Whisk until slightly thickened. Season with salt, pepper, and cinnamon.
Turn off the heat and add all but 2 Tbs. parmesan cheese. Once melted stir in the onions.
Put a small spoonful of the sauce into the base of each ramekin. Mix the remaining sauce with the sweet potatoes and divide equally into the ramekins. Top with parmesan cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly and brown.