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My Nepenthe
by Romney Steele
Here is a more elegant version of my grandmother's cheesy potato bake, and yet it is as simple to make. Serve alongside any main course, or on its own with a brightly dressed salad to counterpoint the richness of the cream.
Serves 6 to 8



    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 2/3 cup heavy cream
    • 1 clove garlic, peeled
    • 1 sprig fresh thyme
    • Dash grated fresh nutmeg
    • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, preferably garnet yams, peeled
    • 1 pound Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn potatoes, scrubbed
    • 2 tablespoons butter, plus more for buttering the dish
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
    • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a medium gratin dish.

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, cream, garlic, thyme sprig, and nutmeg and heat to just under a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and steep for 10 minutes. Strain.

Thinly slice the sweet potatoes, using a mandolin or a very sharp knife. Similarly slice the unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes. Layer half of each in the prepared gratin dish, gently pressing down as you go. Dot with 1 tablespoon butter and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with half the Gruyere, half the Parmesan, and half the thyme. Repeat with the remaining potatoes, butter, herbs, salt and pepper, and cheeses. Pour the cream mixture over the top.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes. Uncover, increase the temperature to 400°F, and continue baking for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through and the top is golden. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

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