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Spicy Purple and Sweet Potato Gratin with Coconut Milk

If I could go back in time to just last year, I would thank myself for one thing: coconut. I spent all my life hating it, but after putting myself through a year of trying it repeatedly, it’s quickly high-tailing it to my list of favorite things. I keep reminiscing about a recent coconut margarita, and have you experienced coconut ice cream? If not, change that ASAP.

Always seeking out new things to try, one of the most recent adventures involved the purple potato via a curry. Ever since then, I’ve been wanting to pair it with sweet potatoes. This may mostly be for aesthetic purposes because, come on, you know one of the main reasons you visit food blogs is for the food porn. However, the purple spuds are actually little antioxidant powerhouses which I thought would make an awesome duo with their also nutritious orange cousins.

mandolined 'taters

So last week, I came up with the crazy idea of making an orange and purple gratin, but with my new pal coconut milk in place of regular milk and butter. When ideas like this occur, I google them to see if they are indeed a thing. It is (the zebra bundt was not!), and it seems like it’s most commonly spiced with chipotle . There was an interesting one with regular potatoes using garam masala though, and I liked her inclusion of kale. So I tried a mashup of what was in my head along with the guidance of a couple of recipes and BOOM. This thing is magic.


Seriously, this is one of those dishes that I would order again and again at a restaurant, and if I HAD a restaurant, this would totally be on the menu. (Uhh, not that I would want one of those. Holy cow.) But really, it’s amazing because the coconut milk and the smoky chipotle work together in a way that makes the dish taste almost cheesy and…bacon-y. The thin potatoes become creamy on the bottom and crispy on top, and kale chips (yeah, baby!) add another pop of crunch and color. The added bonus is that it’s something that most people can have: it’s vegan, gluten-free (no bechamel!), and I believe paleo peeps can eat it, though someone please correct me if I’m wrong. Best of all, it’s a cinch to make.

Side dish of champions!

eat it!

Spicy Purple and Sweet Potato Gratin with Coconut Milk
inspired by JenCereghino and Wishful Chef

So far I’ve only seen the purple potatoes at Whole Foods, but you can of course use only sweet potatoes. Also, in addition to the kale chips, I think toasted almond slivers would be another great topping!

purple and sweet potatoes (I used 2 purple and 1 average-sized sweet)
1 shallot
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 tablespoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt
optional, but recommended: kale chips for topping (method below)

Preheat oven to 400F and lightly grease a baking dish with coconut oil. I used a 9×13 one but probably could have gotten away with a square.

Wash and peel the potatoes, then thinly slice. A mandolin is super here! Thinly slice the shallot as well.

In a mixing bowl or large measuring cup, thoroughly whisk together the coconut milk, chipotle powder, cumin, and salt.

Place a layer of potatoes and shallots in the baking dish, then drizzle with the coconut milk mixture. Continue layering like this making sure you have enough of the liquid to cover the top. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until potatoes are tender and crispy on the top. (If baking in a square dish, this might take a bit longer due to a thicker gratin.)

Let cool a bit before serving. Top portions with baked kale chips!

oh, kale.

Baked Kale Chips
barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Since I love kale so much, it was only a matter of time before these things showed up on my blog. Many have likely experienced them, but if not, they’re almost like very delicate, crisp potato chips. In keeping with the coconut theme, I used coconut oil instead of olive oil, but you can use whatever you’d like.

1 bunch kale, rinsed (any variety, I used lacinato/dinosaur)
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
kosher salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 300F. Remove the center ribs of the kale then chop into large pieces. Toss the kale, oil, and salt in a large bowl, then spread the leaves out in a thin layer on a baking sheet or two. (For lazies like me who don’t want to wash an extra bowl: I spread out the kale on the baking sheet, drizzled with oil, gave it a stir, and sprinkled with salt.) Bake until crispy: this took 12 minutes in my oven, but could take up to 20 in yours. Let cool, then eat up!

Kale Chips!