Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie with Pecans

Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie with Pecans-13163

A baker friend who follows our blog remarked to me the other day, “I love it when there’s an ingredient missing in your photographs.”  Really?  “It means you’re human, you’re not perfect!”  Indeed not.  Most of our blog posts are a quick slide on roller skates across a frozen pond while juggling oranges as the ice melts.  Jody assembles ingredients for, say, Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie with Pecans.  “That’s everything,” she insists.  Except when it’s not.  While most of the food you see here is part of our regular repertoire, Jody sometimes thinks blog = food lab, and uses our blogging session to experiment, including this week’s hybrid of pie-tart-quiche.  When Jody says, Trust me, that’s everything, darling (that’s not exactly what she says) I plow ahead and take the photograph.  But what about the ingredient that showed up for the photograph, but was never used in the actual dish, or the special something that steps out of the shadows in mid-recipe and just inserts itself.   “Oh, I just decided to add yogurt,” Jody says.  “It needed it.”  Move on, Ken, move on.

Who doesn’t love sweet potatoes?  Culinary gravity inexorably pulls them toward brown sugar or molasses or something candied, even with bacon (candied bacon).  But don’t do it, at least not this time.  I never encountered a sweet potato during my year living in Swiitzerland.  But if there were ever a culinary match made in heaven it’s sweet potato and that most hazelnut and butter flavored of all cheeses, aged Gruyère.  Some cheeses should never be melted (who decided that brie en croute is anything but ghastly?).   Gruyère is just the opposite.  Quiche, the poster child of boring French food from the ’70’s, is redeemed by the addition of aged Gruyère.  Fondue without Gruyère is but a pale revenant of the real deal.  Gruyère is expensive ($15-$20/lb.) but the recipe only calls for a cup and half of the stuff, grated, about 3 ounces.

What a pity Gruyère wasn’t in the original ingredients photo.  I only found out about it much much later.  So much later I didn’t even know to look for it during the making of the recipe’s custard.  I thought we were making a Savory Sweet Potato Pie, NOT a Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie.  Fortunately I didn’t have to take a picture of just Gruyère–the yogurt missed the ingredients shot too.  Waiting until after I tasted the finished pie before getting all crazy irritated would have been a better strategy than the one I pursued.  The pie needed the yogurt.  And the Gruyère. Enjoy.  Ken

*I can’t be too hard on him, since he and his wife Christie generously provided the gorgeous Belgian linen bakers’ cloths for this week’s backdrops.  You can see my photos of a few beautiful pastries from their Clearflour Bakery here.

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Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie with Pecans

Makes 1 10-inch pie


  • 9.7 ounces rye crispbread crackers, broken into pieces
  • 5 ounces pecans
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 small red onion cut into ¼-inch dice, about 1 cup
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced hot pepper, the amount will depend on your taste and the heat of the pepper
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • Zest  of 1 lime (optional)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 1½ cups grated Gruyère cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Put the crackers and two thirds of the pecans in a food processor and process until fine.  Add 1/3 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons water, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.  Process until well combined.  This will be a crumbly mixture.  Press into a 10 inch pie plate.  Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned.
  3. Cool.
  4. Peel the sweet potatoes and slice into rounds 1-inch thick.  Put into a bowl with 1 teaspoon oil, the paprika and ¼ teaspoon salt and then toss well. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy pan over medium heat.  Put the sweet potatoes in the pan on one of the flat sides.  Cover and cook over medium heat until they caramelize on one side, about 12 minutes.  Flip, cook on the second side until caramelized and tender, about 9 minutes.  At this point the potatoes should be very tender.  Transfer to a plate.
  5. Add the remaining tablespoon oil to the pan with the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook 5 minutes or until tender.  Add the ginger and chili pepper and cook 2 minutes.  Add the zests and orange juice to the pan, return the sweet potatoes, toss in the juices  and cook until the juices have reduced to a glaze.  Transfer the potatoes back to the plate, leaving the onions in the pan.
  6. Beat the eggs.  Add the cardamom, yogurt, the onion mixture and Gruyère cheese and mix well.
  7. Pour the yogurt custard into the pre-baked pie crust.  Set the sweet potatoes in the custard.  Arrange the remaining pecans atop the pie.
  8. Bake 30-40 minutes or until the custard is just set.   Allow to rest 5 minutes.
  9. Serve directly from the pie plate.

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In the past few weeks I’ve had tons of requests for vegetarian holiday ideas.  I’m a big fan of vegetables and I’m willing to put in some work to make something that tastes good enough to get beyond the the simple label “vegetarian.”   This was one idea.  

I love a crust–they bring elegance to a dish that might otherwise be a casserole.  In fact, I’m usually really happy when a crust sticks to the pan (so I can pick it off with my fingers for nibbling).  It’s my favorite part to eat.  When I told Ken I wanted to make a pie he pointed out we’ve done quite a few things with crusts lately.  What a party pooper.  If you followed my suggestion a few weeks ago about practicing pastry dough and still have a package in the freezer, then by all means defrost it, roll it out and pre-bake it.  (Or follow the instructions here for making a fresh one.)  Alternatively, you can try this VERY crumbly crispbread cracker crust.  I realized that crumbly crusts are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I wanted a rye flavor to contrast with the sweet potato and Gruyère.    

60 thoughts

  1. A fabulous way to present sweet potatoes. And thank you for omitting the marshmallows. However, I completely disagree with you on melted brie. Are you just being stubborn? Have you tasted it recently?!!! Especially paired with a lovely chutney? I completely embrace warmed goat cheeses, epoisses, camembert, and brie. And when you sprinkle bleu cheese or feta on to dishes like pastas, they essentially melt, don’t they?!!!!!

    • Mimi–I didn’t say I didn’t like melted cheese, only that some cheese aren’t, to my taste, made for melting–and I stand by my comment about the Camembert. You’re allowed to feel otherwise (taste is inarguable…:-) ). My problem, specifically with Camembert is that many soft-ripened cheeses have their edge removed be not being made with raw milk. I don’t eat generic brie or “Camembert” because it tastes boring to me, and because I’d rather invest the calories in something that gives me gustatory bang for the buck. When I get my hands on raw-milk Camembert, I don’t melt it because it alters the flavor and texture, which I highly prize. The issue for me isn’t melting, per se–it’s losing those aspects of the flavor that I love, like serving a great white wine too cold or dark roasting Guatemalan coffee. These things don’t necessarily taste bad; they just taste like attenuated versions of themselves, stripped of the flavor notes that made them so wonderful in the first place. The other thing is that soft-ripening cheeses unlike, say, cheddar, often separate if heated. When I’ve been served brie-en-croute it is so often a separated mess that I’ve given up ever seeing the rare one that is simply melted. Now I skip the experience altogether. I have enjoyed a WARMED Epoisses, but at our house I would never bother. I eat it at room temperature, really ripe. As for blue cheese or feta or Parmeson on pastas, they melt, but don’t separate. Ken

      • Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t really care what cheeses you like, warmed or otherwise. I’m absolutely one who believes that it’s each to his own, thank goodness. I thought my comment was lighthearted, but perhaps it wasn’t written correctly. I try to use a lot of !!!!!!! to lighten things just for that reason! Sometimes comments can be misunderstood.
        There are actually a few foods that I don’t like. Like celeriac! Which you might think is crazy! But I’m sure you don’t give a shit that I hate it! And so forth…
        I’ve actually never heard of generic brie. I import all my French cheeses via fromages.com. My manchego from latienda.com. And so forth, so i might not have been (thankfully) subjected to what you’re callling generic. like fake? I am a cheese snob, but the reason I order online is because I live in Oklahoma. I order a lot of stuff online. I have to.
        But I still love room temperature Brie, and I love it melted. I wish I had taken a photo of the last party I catered last fall where I served a baked brie. It was beautiful. No separation there!
        You know what – as a side thought – I think there’s something to people also who like specific flavors not mixed with other flavors. For example, one daughter won’t let her foods touch on the plate. On the other hand, the greatest thing to me about Thanksgiving, the meal, is mixing and matching all of the different foods to create new and different and exciting flavors! Maybe that’s why you’re not fond of baked brie. just a thought.

      • WWwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY not?
        By the way, beautiful photographs as always. I think I’ve quit commenting on your photography skills because I’ve become so accustomed to expecting them onthe blog. I have very high expectations! And you never fail me!
        By the way, the cookbook is on its way!!!

    • Mimi–This theme won’t let me reply beyond 1 or 2 layers deep, but thank you for purchasing the cookbook. There are lots of things inside I think you’ll enjoy. You might recognize a few of them from the blog. In certain respects the food world has changed since it was published. Farro, not easily procured when the book came out, is now commonly available. And heirloom pork, almost impossible to get, unless you were a restaurant, has also become more widely accessible. If you want something to keep you occupied for a week, make the soupe de poisson. :-) Ken

      • Soupe de poisson sounds fabulous. I really can’t wait to get the book. The food world has changed a lot. In one way it’s fabulous – just like the ability to get grass-fed beef from New Zealand and Berkshire pork, foie gras. On the other hand, I’m so sick of being inundated with quinoa and kale. That’s why I was teasing you about perhaps being stubborn about baked brie – I myself have been stubborn about food trends. I think once we discussed the prevalence of sun dried tomatoes and pesto in the 80’s… And I honestly don’t know why farro is so cool, except that it’s Italian, i think.
        I probably won’t make the fish soup because I can’t get good seafood where I live, and my online seafood purchases are usually restricted to good smoked salmon, not raw fish. So sad.
        Which is why I take our vacations very seriously – at least I get to eat foods that I can’t purchase and prepare in my home when I’m at good restaurants.
        I’ve actually reserved some time at Stephane’s B & B in Libourne, France next year for just that purpose – are you familiar with MyFrenchHeaven.com? Now he has YourFrenchHeaven.com! I’ve requested calamari, mussells, duck, and a few other items for first-time cooking experiences. So excited!

  2. What a great recipe! I love the pie crust idea. It’s brilliant. Each ingredient here makes this dish stunning. The photos are amazing as always. I love your whisk. You sound like me when I ask my mother in law how she made whatever wonderful dish she just made and then i say “that can’t be it?” I don’t think she intentionally forgets to tell me the most important ingredient, but it’s happened enough that I wonder if she’s holding out on me on purpose! Typical example: Me: “Clearly there is something in here that makes it this creamy…” Mother in law: “Oh right…that would be the cream I used.”

  3. okay honestly, I have never been a fan of pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie. At the restaurant last week, I decided to try the sweet potato special the new baker created. It was amazing- nothing like imagined it to be. And now I see your recipe here and it looks so amazing. MUST TRY>>>> the egg in avocado was delightful

    • Sweet potatoes are a gift. I go through phases where I eat them like crazy, usually roasted, garnished with kimchi, Greek yogurt or sour cream, usually when Jody’s out of town and I just want something simple for myself. Then months will go by before I have another. Then Jody pulls something like this out of her hat… Glad you enjoyed the egg in avocado. They’re fun. Ken

  4. What great fun! A recipe that turns every expectation on its head. !t’s a pecan pie; no, it’s a quiche; no, it’s a pumpkin-ish pie; no, it’s just a crazy-delicious thing. I love the idea of a savory cracker crumb crust and can’t wait to try that. And, please, Ken, listen to Jody and don’t be a party pooper. :)

  5. Can’t wait to try this. One of my husbands favorite vegetables—-sweet potatoes..and I love gruyere…even melted……

  6. I especially enjoyed the “real life” portion of this blog entry. Luckily pie (and Gruyere) have charms to soothe the savage frustrated photographer breast.
    It goes without saying that this looks like great food.

  7. Gruyere! The interwebs has a logic of its own. I’ve been dreaming about making Dorie Greenspan’s cheesy creme brulee with gruyere, and now this tart/quiche/party pooper’s pie. :-)
    Without comparing the level of our skills, I understand Jody’s method – whether it’s subtracting or adding a recipe mid-flight. Sometimes, things just make sense halfway through, and you realise it was meant to be.
    I also want to come to your house for dinner. And, there’s a cookbook?

  8. Pingback: Sunchoke and Gruyere Gratin | KITCHEN CONVERSATIONS WITH EMILY

    • I had my doubts about those at first, but we’ve already established what a party pooper I am, so I say nothing. After the pie finished cooking, my doubts vanished. By the way, now that Google’s home page customization is gone, I’m going to have to try signing up for Oui, Chef again–and hope you don’t drop me. :-) Ken

  9. Your pie looks stunning and the recipe is so unique I can’t wait to try it! Yum, I love all of the ingredients – just never thought of putting them together! I am running out to the store right now to pick up what I need!! Thanks so much for this beautiful recipe.

  10. I love all these ingredients. Autumn all in one. Orange and brown and such a divine crust. Inspired. You can leave out as many things as you like, change everything halfway through and make it up. It’ll always be worth reading about. Sophie

  11. Erlaubt ist was schmeckt, sagte ein großer Philosoph, (oder war das eben ich) ;-) , und mit diesen Zutaten, kann die Welt untergehen, und keiner würde es bemerken . . .

  12. I tried this recipe tonight; it was simple and looks delicious! I loved your pictures, it made it so easy to follow your instructions. I’m planning to serve it at my office Thanksgiving luncheon tomorrow. This may not be ideal, I realize. Do you think I should reheat it before the party or serve it cold?

    • That’s a tough one. If you can warm it in an oven, I’d do that. Ordinarily I’d never suggest using a microwave, but this is crumb crust, so it’s not like the texture of the crust will be ruined. However, if the pie actually COOKS longer, the texture of the custard will suffer. So… if your only option is a microwave, I’d let the pie come to room temp and serve it that way, or just nuke it briefly (after it’s already at room temp) at a lower power level-power and see how it’s doing. You can always nuke more, but you can’t undo microwaving. The object here is just to warm it very slightly, not get it like it just came out of the oven–it will be too late for that. Good luck. Ken

  13. Wow! that looks fabulous!! I’ve never had sweet potato pie – I think I’ve pretty much had sweet potato everything else!!! – so this will be great to try ☺️ I’ve made pie with a pecan nut base in the past that might work well here as I prefer a gluten free option? What do think?

  14. I’ve had so much fun browsing through your gorgeous creations, alternately drooling over Ken’s luscious photographs or salivating at the ingredients and how I imagine they will taste if I can manage to recreate them! Now this – served with a simple salad – something peppery with a touch of bitter, I think?

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