not to miss—yukon gold and sweet potato gratin, vegan style

Months ago, on a Saturday afternoon long before the freak Halloween snowstorm arrived and knocked our power out for several days, we happened to drive by a road side farm stand. The farm stand was set on a gravel lot next to a corner car dealership. There were half a dozen 4 x 4 foot wood crates filled with the usual winter squash suspects: blue hubbard, buttercup, butternut, sugar pumpkin. There were palates stacked with yellow onions and bins with green and red peppers and green and purple cabbage too. But, when I saw the fifty-pound bag of potatoes, I saw every sort of potato dish that would get us through winter. As the one vegetable everyone in the house eats, I was thrilled. I bought one large sack of the Yukon Golds and for a moment, contemplated a second.

sweet and yukon gold potatoes

Last weekend, I decided to dig into the bag and make a potato gratin. I brought my favorite chartreuse green plastic bowl (left at my apartment years ago at a potluck) downstairs and filled it with a pound of potatoes. The supply has dwindled down to about ten pounds or so which at this point is good, a few too many have sprouted eyes and have grown soft to the touch. The winter before when we hauled a winter storage share down to the corner pantry, the carrots and cabbage didn’t make. So I had my reservations about composting another heap of rotten smelly vegetables.

sweet and yukon gold potato peels

The woman at the stand was spot on. We put the potatoes on a basement shelf stored inside the ventilated paper sack they came in and with the exception of a few gnarly softies; they survived.

sweet and yukon gold potato gratin with cashew cream sauce

Also, I recently learned from my mom who has worked in a number of large kitchens, that if you individually wrap each potato in newspaper, then slip them back into their sack that the paper wrapping prevents the whole bag from rotting if one happens to go. A good tip for us New England dwellers to keep in mind for next winter’s haul.

sweet and yukon gold potato gratin

This gratin recipe is a riff off one I usually make from Bon Appétit for Thanksgiving and occasionally Easter dinner. It employs a similar technique of layering a mix of thinly cut sweet and Yukon Gold potatoes with cheese, salt, and pepper. Next add a layer of cream sauce goes on top and repeat those steps. I suppose that’s where the similarity ends. I came up with a leek and shallot cashew cream seasoned with fresh ground nutmeg along with parsley and thyme leaves. I also use a tofu-based cream cheese in this one, but dairy would be just as nice.

The cashew cream sauce imparts an unexpected richness that I hope you’ll like. We certainly did as the empty dish in the kitchen sink can attest to—if it in fact could speak.

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One of the keys to this recipe is to get the potatoes sliced paper-thin with the slicing blade in a food processor or with a mandolin. If neither are available, use the slicing side of a box grater or a sharp knife and try to cut them in even thin slices so they cook evenly and nearly melt into the sauce. The other is the leek and shallot cashew cream sauce. As I the sauce warms in the pan, I like to add the seasonings to taste adding a pinch more salt, a few more thyme leaves, or extra black pepper. I recommend you do the same.

Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin with Leek & Shallot Cashew Cream Sauce
Makes 4 to 6 hearty servings

3 cups thin cashew cream (1 cup raw cashews ground to a powder then blended in a food processor or blender with 2 cups of water)
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for baking dish
¼ cup sliced leeks (rinse, cut into rounds, wash in a bowl of water, drain)
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 sprigs chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves plus more for garnish
1 ½ cups cream cheese (use your favorite tofu or dairy-based brand, divided)
½ chopped sunflower seeds

Preheat the oven to 375º F. Oil a 3-quart baking dish.

Combine the peeled and sliced potatoes and place in a large bowl of water to prevent the potatoes from browning; set aside.

To make the cashew cream, grind the cashews to a powder in a food processor or a high speed blender, add the water and blend until smooth and creamy; place the cream in a medium size saucepan and gently warm it over low heat.

While the cream warms up, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, shallots, and a pinch of salt and pepper and a splash of water; stir and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes until tender, then add them to the saucepan of warm cashew cream. Season the cream with nutmeg, black pepper, the fresh thyme and parsley leaves. Add a few pinches of salt, taste, and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Drain the potatoes, then pat them dry with a kitchen towel. Layer half the potatoes on the bottom of the gratin dish; sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Using a teaspoon, scoop the cream cheese then dot the potatoes layer evenly with half the cream cheese. Pour half the cashew cream sauce over the potatoes. Repeat with another potato layer, followed by the other half of the seasoning, cream cheese, and cashew cream sauce. Sprinkle the chopped sunflower seeds evenly over top.

Place the gratin on the middle oven rack and bake, undisturbed until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife and the top is browned, about 55 minutes to 1 hour. Garnish with chopped parsley leaves and serve right away or keep warm in the oven.

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Comments

  1. Oh. Deliciousness!

    Potatoes are my all time favorites. Pasta is okay …. but give me a potato any ole day!

    That was a good tip on saving spuds. I might try doing that. We usually buy 3-5 pounds of potatoes at a time. Good to mix and match.

    What else is cookin up w/those potatoes? How about a hearty potato soup ….. always welcoming. There are so many variations. You can freeze in quart containers. Comes in handy when someone is starvin! I love most all soups. Vegan anything is perfect!

    I could try your recipe. Not sure where the energy will come from. Ha.

    Thanks for the potato story! Reading about all the veggies was interesting.

  2. P.S. Forgot to mention ….. I wanted to see a pic of your green bowl. Just for the heck of it.

    Also ….. were all the veggies more or less abandoned because of the snow storm? Oh really sad for the farmer. I’m happy to know you did save the potatoes.

    • ArtandLemons says:

      Marcee, Oh the bowl. Will take a pic soon! With so many potatoes, the options are endless! Potato latkes, cakes, fried, baked, cinnamon rolls, bread, mashed, burger binders, soups, salads, pierogies…and yes, freeze them for later. Love your thinking! The recipe isn’t bad if you do a few steps ahead of time. Make the cashew cream the day before, refrigerate then reheat and make a machine perform the potato slicing work. No, not all the veggies were lost, thankfully, and we still have potatoes!

  3. This sounds great – it’s cold here in San Francisco today so this would be perfect. Like the addition of the cashews. Yum.

  4. Sounds delicious! The cashew cream sounds like an amazing touch, and my Vegan friends would love this, too. Great recipe, thank you so much for sharing!

  5. this sounds WONDERFUL. i love your variation on the traditional recipe.

  6. Hey!

    I was awarded the Leibster award recently (The Liebster Blog Award is for up and coming bloggers who have a following list of less than 200. Liebster is a German word that means favorite or dearest.) Part of getting the award is going out and finding 5 other blogs you love and awarding them as well. I am so happy I can award this to you. I put a post up today to share your blog and the 4 others I have chosen.

    Jolene @ Health Conscious Momma

    http://healthconsciousmomma.blogspot.com/

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