Everything Sweet Potato Gratin


There are some Minnesotans who say that winter isn’t always like this. There are others who say it used to be a million times worse. Then, there are the ones who pick out a more northern city and state how much worse they have it there. I wonder if, like a lot of things in life, these are merely methods of shifting perspective (read: ways of getting by).

Within days of getting my immune system suppressed in January, I came down with the flu. It hit me suddenly, and just when my body’s ability to fight things off was arguably most impaired. I had a 102 degree fever for days, and it cleared up just in time for a giant mound of snow to bury my car. Then, a polar vortex made it -46 degrees. I was expected to show up to work at 4am those mornings (and I did).

Now, to be clear–I live alone, and I don’t have any family nearby. I don’t have a garage. This means that I dig myself out of this stuff by myself. Even when I am barely recovering from illness. One of those mornings, my neighbor saw me at 3:30am struggling to get my car out of its parking space, and he bundled up and helped me. This is the only time that that has ever happened to me. That man is an angel.

I don’t think I give myself enough credit for the things that I do, all the while dealing with all the ups and downs of a severe autoimmune disease. I work five days and I take grad school classes and I run this website and I take all my vitamins and I meditate and I do yoga and I maintain friendships. Sometimes, I just think I keep going on empty.

It has now been two months since the flu took over, and when I went back for my immunosuppressive treatment this past week, the doctor told me that I had not recovered enough yet to receive my medication yet. I’m worn out. And like,

In the past, I have had a sinus infection turn to walking pneumonia. I have had strep for so long, it has damaged my vocal chords. I have had a mouth infection so bad that, over the course of a year, I had 15 rounds of antibiotics and five oral surgeries. I still lost the tooth. The list goes on, but my point is, beyond (and, let’s be real: because of) my Crohn’s:

When I get sick, I get really sick.

Several weeks after the initial onset of my plague this winter, I was in bed watching You and wishing someone would make me something for dinner. In a majestic perspective shift I find quite similar to the aforementioned Minnesotan-Winter Phenomenon, I somehow moved away from how exhausted I was. My thoughts directed themselves to how easy it would be: slice potatoes, cover with cream, brown with grated cheese and everything bagel seasoning on top.

I cleaned whatever dishes I could in between steps, and I got back in bed whenever there were breaks in cooking. It turns out, once the potatoes have been peeled and sliced, the rest is pretty easy.

Also, I just want to point out that I have figured out a way in my small studio apartment to turn my television so that I can watch from bed.

This has been a total game changer, and I am never getting out of my pjs ever again, even when I feel well.

Anyway, here I am, feeling much better than I did, but still not completely mended, and I actually miss that day when I didn’t feel tip top, but I made this gratin, anyway. I miss not having seen You, because it would mean that I can watch You again for the first time.

And, I don’t know–there’s something about crawling into bed with your grandmother’s crystal housing a giant potato-y mound of onion-infused cream, gruyere funk, and everything bagel nostalgia that just shouts, “Comfort!” Even when there just isn’t a whole lot else to feel that great about.

Cheers to making it through the last few months, friends. We’re almost there. ❤

One Year: ‘It’s Been A Week’ Avo Toast
Two Years: Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup
Three Years: Roasted Carrots with Honey, Harissa, and Yogurt
Four Years: Chickpea Salad Sandwiches
Five Years: Thai Red Curry with Coconut Rice
Six Years: Herbed Yukon Gold Oven Fries

Everything Sweet Potato Gratin
Makes 1 8×8 square dish

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 yellow onion, quartered
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
pinch-1/4 tsp cayenne, as desired
1-2 tbsp high quality, salted butter
1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced on a mandoline
1 1/2 lb yukon gold potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced on a mandoline
1 cup gruyere cheese, finely grated
Everything bagel seasoning, for sprinkling

In a large saucepan, heat cream, onion, sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne on medium heat. Once gentle bubbles form, reduce to a simmer until onions are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, butter an 8×8 square baking dish (preferably ceramic). Line with rows of potatoes, loosely alternating with sweet potato and yukon gold (read: this does not have to be perfect). Fan the potatoes out and squeeze pieces into each and every possible crevice. Once onions are cooked through, remove cream mixture from heat. Let cool for about five minutes, then use a handheld blender to blend mixture until smooth. Pour over potatoes evenly, then cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, covered, for 60-70 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Sprinkle evenly with gruyere, then top with everything bagel seasoning. Broil for 5-10 more minutes, until the cheese is browned and the potato edges are crispy. Let settle about 15 minutes before serving.

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