Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Sweet Potato Sformatos

A sformato is originally a rice-based dish. I’m not sure how authentic these are, since they use rice flour instead of whole rice. (I put some sweet rice in the spice grinder and made the flour myself.) They’re somewhat like a soufflé, though you don’t have to whip eggs whites and worry about them rising or falling. On the plus side, they are gluten-free (unlike my soufflé recipes so far), and they’re very easy to make. I’d say they work best as a light lunch (with a salad), or maybe an appetizer for dinner. I made a half recipe, but I still had enough to fill six small ramekins (though since the sformatos are so light, it came out to 2 full meals). The original recipe says that you can use an 8x8 baking dish instead of ramekins and just increase the cooking time by about 10 minutes. You can also add a spoonful of cooked sausage or mushrooms to each ramekin, to make it a more substantial meal. I used parmesan instead of asiago, which is what I’ll write below, and when I halved the recipe, I used 2 egg yolks I had leftover from another recipe instead of a whole egg and half a yolk. I really enjoyed these!

1 ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, loosely packed, divided
1.5 lbs (2 average-sized) sweet potatoes
3 cups lactose-free whole or 2% milk
4 Tbsp unsalted butter or margarine, plus extra for greasing the ramekins
¼ cup sweet rice flour (or regular all-purpose flour if you want)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp minced thyme (or rosemary)
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp black pepper
2 large eggs
1 large yolk

Heat the oven to 400 °F. Rub the insides of six 8-oz ramekins with butter and sprinkle with ¼ cup of the parmesan cheese. Cheese should stick to the bottom and sides of the ramekin in a single layer.

Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork and place them on a microwave-safe plate lined with a paper towel. Microwave on high in 3-minute intervals, turning the potatoes between each interval and testing them for doneness. It should take 9-12 minutes total for the sweet potatoes to completely soften. Allow the potatoes to cool enough to handle. (Alternatively, you can wrap the potatoes in foil and roast them in a 400 °F oven until soft. As for me, I used sweet potato purée I had in the freezer.)

Meanwhile begin making the béchamel. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it just barely starts to steam (or microwave to warm). Remove from heat. In another pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until a thick paste is formed, 3-5 minutes. Add the milk a little at a time while whisking the butter-flour mixture. Wait to add more milk until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy again. Once all the milk is added, simmer and stir the béchamel until it starts to thicken. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Peel the sweet potatoes and mash the insides in a large mixing bowl. Add one cup of the cheese (reserving the last ¼ cup for topping), the thyme, the nutmeg, and the black pepper. Stir in the cooled béchamel sauce a little at a time to achieve a smooth pudding-like consistency. Before adding the eggs, taste the mixture and add more salt or pepper if desired. Whisk the eggs and yolks together and stir them into the sweet potato mixture.

Place all the ramekins on a baking sheet (a silpat can help keep them from slipping around). Fill the ramekins to within ½ inch of the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the tops are puffed and beginning to brown in spots. Five minutes before the end of cooking, sprinkle each sformato with a little of the reserved cheese.

Allow the sformatos to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Leftovers can be kept refrigerated for up to a week and do well reheated for a few minutes in the microwave or a toaster oven.

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