Due to the nature of my line of work, I am (somewhat begrudgingly) already thinking about Thanksgiving. I’m pretty set on smoking a turkey, but the rest of the menu has yet to be ironed out. One thing is for certain: These scalloped beauties are going on the table.
Of course, there’s no reason to wait for the fourth Thursday in November to avail yourself of this rich and creamy pile of sweet potatoes (or yams). This recipe is exactly what I want in a fall side dish. It’s cheapeasy, and incredibly rich and comforting.
If you’ve been reading Lifehacker for a while, you may notice that it’s very similar to This potatoes au gratin recipe I brought back from France. I almost always prefer a white spud to a yam, but this is one instance where the yam wins out. The thin slices of orange tuber melt in their cream bath, while the butter fat renders out and the heavy cream bubbles and browns, forming a blistered crust. It all condenses down into a thick, creamy custard that’s infused with the sweetness of the yams—or sweet potatoes, whatever—and it rules.
Though it seems like a kind of afterthought of a third ingredient, I’m urging you to not skimp on the salt. All that fat and (naturally occurring) sugar makes the salt a very important ingredient. Without it, the dish can take on the sticky, cloying sweetness of an under-seasoned dessert, and that’s not what you want. It’s almost hard to over-salt this dish—I used just shy of a 1/4 teaspoon for every yam, and it was nowhere close to “too salty.”
Another thing I like about this recipe is that you can scale it up or down as needed. You can use a small cast iron pan and make it with a single yam, or you can make enough for a crowd. The one I made this weekend contained three yams and a pint of heavy cream, so use that as a guiding ratio.
If you want to gussy her up for Turkey Day, you can always get a grated hard cheese, some bread crumbs, or fresh herbs involved—or combine all three to make a nice au gratin topping, but give this dish a spin in its purest form before tweaking it. It really is improbably delicious, and tasting is believing.
3-Ingredient Scalloped Sweet Potatoes (or Yams)
- Sweet potatoes or yams, sliced about 1/8th of an inch thick
- Heavy cream (at least 1 pint for every 3 sweet potatoes, more if the potatoes are large)
- Salt (a little less than 1/4 teaspoon per potato)
Heat your oven to 375℉. Peel and slice your sweet potatoes with a thin knife or a mandoline slicer (use the damn guard), then lay down a single layer of slices—with their ends slightly overlapping—in a casserole dish, or other similarly shaped, oven-safe vessel . Pour in heavy cream until it just covers the layer of potato slices, then sprinkle the entire layer with a generous pinch or two of salt (leave no slice unsalted). Repeat, layering sweet potatoes, cream, and salt, until you are out of sweet potatoes.
Pop the whole thing in the oven and bake until the top is well browned and blistered, and the cream is bubbling and sputtering on the sides—about 30-45 minutes, depending on how many sweet potatoes you’ve got going. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then slice into delicious little squares and serve. Leftovers reheat very well, so make a big batch.