My good friend Jamie and I do a pot luck dinner at her house before the Yom Kippur fast. We serve meat and do not use dairy at the meal, in accordance with the rules of kashrut or keeping kosher. (While I don’t follow those rules in my own home, I respect the rules at her home.) I agreed to make a non-dairy potato dish that would taste good at any temperature, could be made ahead of time, and did not include dairy.
My first thought was a kugel, a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish pudding, either sweet or savory, made with eggs. I do love sweet noodle kugel and could imagine how I would do a savory potato kugel, but my “dream potato kugel” would use dairy, a no-no in this meal. Besides, this potato dish had to taste good warm or room temperature (there might not be space in the oven to heat it up immediately before the meal) and potato kugel is typically best served hot.
Paging through my Ottolenghi cookbooks for inspiration, I came upon a dish called “Danielle’s Sweet Potato Gratin” in his first cookbook, eponomously named “Ottolenghi”. The dish looked delicious but featured heavy cream, so like my dream potato kugel, it wouldn’t work for this meal. Still, the basic premise – standing thinly sliced potatoes upright in a dish, tightly packed and baked – seemed like a promising start. And it was.
This no fuss potato casserole is a great make-ahead dish for any dinner or even a brunch. It has just 5 ingredients (not counting salt and pepper) and takes little time to prepare. While it cooks, all you have to do is take off the cover and raise the heat toward the end. For the oil, use a variety that has a high smoke point such as grapeseed or safflower, not olive oil.
I mixed sweet and yellow (Yukon Gold) potatoes, which makes for a pretty color contrast, but you could do it with just one or the other. If using just sweet potatoes, find golden ones that retain their shape, rather than the orange-fleshed variety that are great for a traditional mashed sweet potato casserole. I used orange ones and so they did get soft, but when combined with firmer white potatoes, that wasn’t an issue. The thinly sliced onions soften to a velvety texture that melts in your mouth and the just the small amount of fresh rosemary sprinkled throughout scents the entire casserole.
The proportions provided below are for a small batch. For the pot luck dinner, I’ll be tripling or quadrupling the recipe. It’s an easy recipe to customize by size – just make sure that the casserole dish holds the slices tightly upright.