Cheese!

sweetpotato

I have a cousin-in-law, Aileen, who makes wonderfully rich and delicious food.  Pretty much every time she makes something we all ask for the recipe.  And seconds.  Last year for Christmas, my aunt sent us all a really great collection of family recipes and Aileen’s mac and cheese recipe (which is so much more than just macaroni and cheese) was included, which was a major score for the rest of us!  Well it turns out the mac and cheese recipe is a great base for pretty much anything and so I’ve been using the basic recipe to make various gratins and casseroles, and I’m pretty sure that at Thanksgiving I found my personal favorite and thought that I would share it.

It’s a sweet potato gratin with spiced nuts and bacon–not for the diet conscious, but sometimes you just gotta let it fly and hunt down the bacon!  Also, as a side note, I wanted to add golden raisins to this and was vetoed, but I think I will next go round to see how it turns out.  Drew says gross, I say good, you can do it any old way you like.

What do you think I should call it?

Nutty Sweet Potato Gratin?

4 Sweet Potatoes, thinly sliced (or however many fill a casserole dish)

4 c. whole milk

6 Tbs flour

1 stick of butter

pinch of nutmeg

two garlic cloves, diced

pepper to taste

1 tsp cayenne (or more if you would like more of a kick)

spiced nuts (recipe below), coarsely chopped

2 c. each:

sharp cheddar

Asiago

Gruyere or Fontina

6-9 slices of bacon cooked and chopped up,

1/2 c. grated parmesan (from the shaker) OR 1/2 c. breadcrumbs tossed with 2 TBS melted butter for topping

***

Preheat oven to 350, grease large casserole dish. Place sliced sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl.   Bring milk to a boil.  In another pan melt butter, add flour and whisk constantly to prevent lumps.  Add milk to butter mixture, stirring constantly, and then add cayenne, garlic, pepper, and nutmeg.  Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thickened stirring constantly, 6-9 minutes.  Once thickened, stir in 1/2 the cheese (1 c. each) until melted.  Pour mixture over potatoes, stir to coat evenly, mix in nuts and bacon.  Transfer half of the potato mixture to the prepared dish, top with remaining cheeses, top with the rest of the potato mixture and cover the top with parmesan or breadcrumbs.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and juices are bubbling and potatoes are tender.

Nuts

About 1/2 c. to a cup of nuts.  I used walnuts because that’s what we had, but in the future I will do pecans simply because I prefer them.

1-2 Tbs olive oil (mmm, or melted butter!)

1 Tbs Old Bay

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp garlic powder.

Toss nuts with all the ingredients and toast until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

*Really for the nuts, just toss them around with whatever sounds good to you.  I just grabbed bottles and they seemed to come out ok, so have at it!

Also, if you just want to make the mac and cheese, cook a pound of penne until it’s al dente and place in a mixing bowl.  Follow recipe above, omit bacon and nuts (or not), and just before baking, top with 1/2c. heavy cream.  Divine.  This recipe also works well for broccoli cheese casserole, potatoes au gratin with red onion, and just about anything else you want baked in cheese…which for me is pretty much everything.  Happy eating!

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