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.
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
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Beat the eggs. Add the cardamom, yogurt, the onion mixture and Gruyère cheese and mix well.
- Pour the yogurt custard into the pre-baked pie crust. Set the sweet potatoes in the custard. Arrange the remaining pecans atop the pie.
- Bake 30-40 minutes or until the custard is just set. Allow to rest 5 minutes.
- Serve directly from the pie plate.
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.