New Potato Tian with Thyme and Pecorino

Potatoes. Like an F150 pickup truck, they’re everywhere you look.

Vertical overhead image of a potato casserole in a round glass dish, with melted cheese and fresh herbs, and a sprig of thyme for garnish, on a wood surface with a white cloth, printed with orange and white text at the midpoint and the bottom of the frame.

It’s not that I don’t like these starchy roots; I do. Like most of you, I grew up eating them mashed and baked, sliced into French fries and served alongside scrambled eggs and toast as hash browns. When hasselbacks emerge from the oven, crusty and golden, garlicky and soft, I’ll be the first to spoon half a dozen onto my plate.

I’m nuts about au gratin, that sloppy, creamy casserole that’s pumped full of butter, milk, and several different kinds of cheese – you and I both know that’s pure comfort on a plate.

And if it’s Hanukkah and you bring latkes, you’ll make me one happy girl – in fact, that’s true whether it’s Hanukkah or not.

Vertical closeup overhead image of a casserole made with thinly sliced potatoed, shredded Pecorino cheese, sauteed garlic and onions, and fresh herbs, with a thyme sprig garnish on top.

But all these facts notwithstanding, in this household, we hardly ever buy a bag of Russets or Yukon Golds. I think the last time they were in my grocery cart was circa 2010, and as strange as that sounds, the reason’s pretty simple. It comes down to two words:

Sweet potatoes.

When I’m standing in the produce section, faced with the choice of either a bag of hearty Russets or their long and orange counterparts, the sweet potatoes win every time (or the yams, to be clear, because the differences between the two have never struck me as important enough to change the way I use them).

Sweet potatoes can be used interchangeably in most traditional recipes that call for regular spuds: as fries, in roasted rounds, mashed, in casseroles or to make latkes, and baked whole.

And they can do so much more. Add them to smoothies! Try them in brownies! Roast and puree them and use them for filling homemade pies!

And their nutritional profile is so rich: Beta carotene! Vitamin C! Antioxidants! And they’re helpful in regulating blood sugar!

Closeup vertical image of a potato tian that has been baked until golden brown, with layers of thinly sliced potato, melted cheese, and fresh thyme.

Nonetheless, there are times when I find myself looking at the ‘Jewel’ yams or purple sweet potatoes in my shopping bag, and thinking of the regular white spuds that have been overlooked. I can’t help feeling a little like I’m watching a kid who hasn’t been picked for a baseball team, or quietly looking the other way while a friend is passed over for a promotion.

I know rationally that outside of my little universe, the traditional white-fleshed Idaho potato is far from underappreciated. But still, just knowing how often I pass them by sends my maternal instincts to work.

Comparisons can be so unfair. Nobody likes to be left out. Ask any writer: rejection stinks.

Furthermore, it’s not like I’m talking about a jelly doughnut or a beer-battered onion ring here. These vegetables are whole foods!

So, when our CSA delivers Tennessee-grown heirloom fingerlings and about a dozen new potatoes in our biweekly box, the part of me that likes to root for underdog rejoices.

“See, Potatoes,” I think while I stack them in the pantry, “We do like you, too!”

Horizontal image of a red silicone spatula removing a slice of potato casserole from a glass baking dish, on a gray background.

And then, since the return of these humble root vegetables to our kitchen warrants making something special and celebratory, something both pretty to look at and delightful to eat, we make a tian: a combination of thinly sliced rounds with sauteed onions and garlic, chicken broth, Pecorino cheese, and a slow bake.

Traditionally baked in a Provençal earthenware dish for which this type of dish is named, today’s definition of this type of dish has become a bit more lax – as far as I’m concerned, layered vegetables that are cooked like a casserole and browned on top qualify whether you have the traditional bakeware or not. A ratatouille fits the bill as well.

Overhead horizontal image of a triangular slice of potato tian with melted cheese on top and a sprig of fresh thyme, on a white plate, on top of a folded blue and white striped cloth on a brown wood table.

Delicately arranged into what looks almost like a flower in bloom, this tian takes its place at the table like the supper star it is.

Sure, you could do the same thing with sweet potatoes. But today, at least today, starchy new potatoes are on the menu.

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Horizontal image of a triangular portion of layered potato tian on a white ceramic plate, with a sprig of fresh thyme for garnish.

New Potato Tian


  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 Servings 1x

Description

Looking for a fresh take on taters? Try this tian recipe where thin slices are laced with savory onions and garlic and dusted with sharp Pecorino.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, sliced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds new potatoes, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onion. Saute, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, season the mixture generously with salt and pepper, and cook until the garlic has melted into the onions, about 3-5 minutes. Spread this mixture evenly into the bottom of a round or oval baking dish.
  4. Arrange the potato slices in the baking dish, one layer at a time, in a circular pattern. Season each layer with salt and pepper. Pour the chicken stock over the top. Add the thyme, an additional pinch each of salt and pepper, and the cheese.
  5. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
  6. Uncover, drizzle the oil over the top, and continue baking until the potatoes are fork tender and the top is bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.

  • Category: Side Dishes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: French

Keywords: tian, potato tian, new potatoes, thyme, Pecorino

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Chop Vegetables and Measure Ingredients

Slice the onions and mince the garlic.

Vertical image of a potato with the skin on in the plastic shut in the top of a food processor with the slicing blade attached, in a kitchen.

Either thinly slice the potatoes by hand into evenly-size rounds, get out your mandoline, or use the 2-millimeter thin slicing disc attachment on your food processor.

Using the food processor will guarantee perfectly even slices, and cut your prep time in half.

Vertical overhead image of thinly sliced potato in the plastic canister of a food processor, on a gray countertop with a wooden cutting board.

Measure out the rest of the ingredients that you will need. Grate the cheese, mince the garlic, and separate the thyme leaves from the stems.

Step 2 – Saute the Onions and Garlic

In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onion. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent.

Sliced onions and garlic sauteeing in a cast iron pan with oil.

Add the garlic, season the mixture generously with salt and pepper, and cook until the garlic has melted into the onions. Keep the heat low, and do not allow the mixture to burn.

Step 3 – Assemble

Horizontal image of sauteed sliced onions and minced garlic spread in an even layer in the bottom of a glass pie dish, on a light brown countertop.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Horizontal image of a glass pie dish with sauteed onions in the bottom and three thin slices of raw potato to the left side, on a brown kitchen countertop with a food processor to the left and a wooden knife block to the right.

Evenly spread the onion and garlic mixture onto the bottom of a round or oval baking dish.

Horizontal image of a clear glass pie dish filled with sauteed onions and thinly sliced raw potatoes arranged in a circle around the perimeter on top, on an unfinished wood surface with a food processor to the left and a wooden knife block to the right.

Arrange the potato slices in the baking dish one layer at a time, in a circular pattern.

Horizontal oblique overhead image of thinly sliced raw potatoes arranged in concentric circles in a glass pie dish, sprinkled with fresh thyme, on an unfinished wood surface.

Season each layer with salt and pepper.

Horizontal closely cropped overhead image of thinly sliced potatoes arranged in concentric circles in a glass baking dish, with grated cheese and chopped fresh herbs on top, on a brown unfinished wood surface.

Pour the chicken stock over the top. Add the thyme, an additional pinch each of salt and pepper, and the cheese.

Step 4 – Cover and Bake

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes.

Step 5 – Uncover and Finish Baking

Closeup horizontal image of a baked casserole of thinly sliced potatoes with melted cheese and fresh herbs on top.

Remove the foil, drizzle the oil over the top, and bake until the potatoes are fork tender and the cheese is bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.

Layered Spuds are Happy Spuds

The fancy circular pattern of these thinly sliced root vegetables may be mesmerizing, but it’s the complex layers of flavor that make this a drool-worthy side.

Overhead horizontal image of a new potato tian in a round glass pie dish, sprinkled with fresh herbs and cheese and baked until golden brown, on a dark brown wood table with a folded blue and white striped kitchen towel.

If you can’t find Pecorino, sharp, salty Parmesan will do the trick. To double up the cheese (yes, please!), add some nutty notes by tossing aged Gruyere into the mix. And on top. And in your mouth.

No one’s looking.

Horizontal image of a triangular portion of layered potato tian on a white ceramic plate, with a sprig of fresh thyme for garnish.

For more ways to up your potato game, check out these tasty taters:

What’s your favorite way to get your spud on? Sliced and fried? Baked and loaded? Share your tater tricks in the comments below. And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it!

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on August 7, 2012. Last updated: September 20, 2019 at 19:26 pm. With additional writing and editing by Fanny Slater and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

36 thoughts on “New Potato Tian with Thyme and Pecorino”

  1. So glad you are embracing your potato and in such a gorgeous way (that first photo is so perfect… so very perfect!)

  2. i’m the exact opposite, i do not like the colored sweet potatoes (unless they’re fried, in which case, i’m all in), i bypass those more often than not. i love how pretty & fancy this dish looks!

    • You’re kidding! What about when they’re eaten more like squash and less like potato (i.e., in a pumpkin pie? in pancakes?)—still no?

      • no girl. i have a problem with colored food in that i ate the white potato first so therefore it has to be white, even tho the purple & orange variety are natural… i don’t eat blue food (blueberries don’t count) and don’t get me started on st. patty’s day green stuff…

  3. This looks amazing. I absolutely love potatoes but eat them sparingly – this is a dish I could certainly make room for in my kitchen!

  4. You know, I don’t have nearly enough sweet potato in my life. Earthy pecorino and earthy spuds – a match made in tian heaven.

    • You know, when I read back over this post, even with the recipe for new potatoes, it’s sweet potatoes I want. Poor, poor potatoes.

  5. I’ve actually never made a tian, have to now (you had me at Pecorino :-)) You’re also reminding me I have to sign up for CSA asap! Life and time are short… we must savor the (sweet or white) potatoes of life for all they’re worth! 😉

    • So true, Helene! And tians are new to me, too. I’ve also seen them with rounds of zucchini and tomato. The possibilities are endless!

  6. The potato has had some really bad press over the last ten years or so but, as you rightly say, it is a whole food and there is very little in life that’s better than a good potato. Garlic, thyme and a touch of pecorino are really the perfect complements.

  7. I just said to Brad last night “I LOVE potatoes.” We haven’t eaten them for ages either, but this summer we decided if they show up in our CSA box, it’s fair game.

    And oh my word, potatoes are so good. Especially those new potatoes that actually taste like hot sun and fresh breezes. I’m being overdramatic, but I really missed the potato.

    I’ll chime in with everyone else to say your purpose in this space has been clear to me since the first day I started reading (and it’s something you put out there right away and I adore): talking about food to talk about everything else. And by “everything else,” I mean truth, all that is good, and the importance of stories.

  8. Because it’s Julia Child’s birth month feel I must mention this: “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”

  9. I have the opposite problem…I never buy sweet potatoes! I’ve never really been a big fan of them, but perhaps I need to try them in something like this. 🙂

  10. We have a friend who always puts sweet potatoes in his smoothies and swears he finds them so crazy sweet now (kind of like bananas) and I find that so fascinating!

  11. Yes, we always had the, not so admired now, white Idaho! We had baby reds, and Yukon golds, and it was a love affair for sure. When you mentioned latkes, my mouth began to water. This is one of my all time tops! The potatoes must be grated, the onion too. They are not just for Hanukkah for they are craved too much. So, here’s to the potato, with a new respect, a whole….. and most delicious comforting food! Mom 🙂

    • Haha, Mom, your comments always kill me. Don’t go crazy with those potatoes now—a little greens to balance it out, OK? : )

  12. I’m curious about the word “tian”. I couldn’t find it in any dictionary, other than things related to Chinese – nothing related to food.
    You mentioned Potatoes Au Gratin – my Mother made them with potatoes, onions, (both pre-cooked in water), a white sauce with Cheddar cheese and topped with crumbled bacon. Yummee!!
    I love your recipes – the simplicity of them and all the new idea. Thanks!!

    • Hi Sharon! I believe it comes from France. According to online dictionaries, the most common definitions of tian are:

      1. A dish of finely chopped vegetables cooked in olive oil and then baked au gratin
      and
      2. A large oval earthenware cooking pot traditionally used in Provence

  13. Every day after the gym, I eat potatoes. I’ll try differently this time. Thanks for the recipe.

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