Potatoes. Like an F150 pickup truck, they’re everywhere you look.
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.
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:
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 their nutritional profile is so rich: Beta carotene! Vitamin C! Antioxidants! And they’re helpful in regulating blood sugar!
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!”
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 classic ratatouille fits the bill as well.
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.Print
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.
- 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
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
- 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.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 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.
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.
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.
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
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Evenly spread the onion and garlic mixture onto the bottom of a round or oval baking dish.
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.
Step 4 – Cover and Bake
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
Step 5 – Uncover and Finish Baking
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.
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.
For more ways to up your potato game, check out these tasty taters:
- Warm Oil and Vinegar Potato Salad
- Potato and Chanterelle Soup with Fresh Arugula Pesto
- Buttered Miso Roasted Potatoes
- German Potato Pancakes
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, 2020 at 17:27 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.
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.