As a young kid I hated sweet potatoes. I had never tried one, but I just knew, deep down, that I’d hate it and so I did. I don’t remember when I got over this assumed hatred of them, but it wasn’t until I was at least 11 or 12, and even then I only learned to like them reluctantly. I look back at that time and wonder why. It made no sense as it combined 2 things I loved the most; potatoes and something sweet. While I may never understand why I didn’t like them, at least I got over it and now adore sweet potatoes. Not only are they great in their traditional uses but make a nice surprise when replacing normal potatoes in dishes where one doesn’t expect to find sweet potatoes such as in potato salads or a breakfast hash.

Today, many people like to play up their sweet side, but I often prefer to down play their sweetness and instead enjoy them for the subtle floral qualities that they possess. And while they are flavorful enough to stand up to the most complex of dishes, they also do wonderfully in simple preparations such as this wonderful gratin that I like to serve as a autumn or winter side dish.

Spicy Sweet Potato Gratin

serves 6-8

4-5 pounds sweet potato
2-2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups Parmesan, shaved or grated
ground chipotle pepper
2 Tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 350°F. Using the butter, generously grease a 9×13 baking pan. Peel the sweet potatoes and slice them about 1/8″ thick. Lay down a single layer of the sweet potatoes, overlapping them slightly. Season lightly with salt, pepper and chipotle pepper, then sprinkle with some of the cheese.

Continue layering the potatoes, with the seasoning and cheese, until all the potatoes are used up, and making sure that you have at least 1/2 cup of cheese left for the top. Add enough cream to just barely come to the top of the potatoes and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the sweet potatoes are easily pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.