• 4 large poblano peppers
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 3/4 c. sour cream
  • 8 oz. Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
  • toasted pumpkin seeds, for serving
  • olive oil, salt & pepper to taste

It’s that time of year again! The holidays are upon us, which means it’s time to throw out any sense of self-control and forget about those pesky dietary restrictions. I mean, there’s always January, right?

For the next week, I’ll be providing you with recipes that are inspired by the holiday table. First up, Sweet Potato Gratin with Poblano Cream. This recipe was inspired by one I found while flipping through an old Food & Wine magazine. In the article, chef Julie Robles of Tavern in L.A. makes this at-home version of her popular restaurant favorite by layering roasted butternut squash with a crème fraîche-laced poblano cream and crumbly farmer cheese.

As much as I love butternut squash, I absolutely dread cutting into the dang thing. One machete, two sore thumbs, twenty minutes and several close calls later, I’m left wondering why I didn’t just pay the $7.00 a pound for the pre-cut stuff. So I switched it up; instead of the delicious-yet-burdensome butternut, I opted for the user-friendly sweet potato, which I chopped up and roasted until the chunks were soft and just starting to brown. Similar in texture and taste to butternut squash, roasted sweet potato adds just the right amount of subtle sweetness to offset the fiery poblano cream.

The dish goes together in layers, with sweet potatoes, poblano cream, ricotta (which, by the way, I smooth in the food processor with a little cream and olive oil) and Monterrey Jack nestling on top of one another. After a good half hour in the oven, the dish comes out bubbling hot and melty. The soft sweet potatoes mix and mingle with the spicy poblano cream, and the ricotta and Monterrey Jack add a creamy richness. Careful, now: a little goes a long way. Seconds should only be attempted if you’re fully prepared for a food coma.

For the full scoop on the dish, head on over to the Fayetteville Flyer.

Sweet Potato Gratin with Poblano Cream

Using your oven’s broiler or your grill, roast the poblanos over open flame, turning occasionally, until they are charred and the skin is blistered. Transfer the poblanos to a bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and allow to cool. Peel, stem and seed the poblanos, and cut them into thin strips.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Drizzle the sweet potatoes liberally with olive oil, and salt and pepper. On a rimmed baking sheet, spread them in a single layer and roast for about 30 minutes, until they are tender and just beginning to brown, flipping them once. Remove them from the oven, set aside, and increase the oven temperature to 425°.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sliced onion, thyme and oregano, and cook over medium heat until the onion has softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute longer. Add the poblano strips and cook about 5 minutes longer. Add the heavy cream and simmer over medium-low heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sour cream, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

In an 8×8 baking dish, spoon half of the poblano cream into the bottom of the dish. Top with half of the roasted sweet potatoes, half of the ricotta, and half of the Monterey Jack. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes, until the gratin is golden and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Garnish each serving with toasted pumpkin seeds, and serve immediately.