Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese: A Bewitching Side From ’wichcraft’s Sisha Ortuzar

Even a humble sandwich shop is, in Manhattan, prone to the haute treatment. Since 2003, ’wichcraft has been laying out gourmet takes on what goes between two slices of bread. Of course, that’s only the beginning. This year, founders Tom Colicchio and Sisha Ortuzar published a book on the subject, ‘wichcraft: Craft a Sandwich into a Meal — And a Meal into a Sandwich. And Ortuzar has turned the upstairs of the Flatiron ‘wichcraft into a destination dining spot. The menu is market-driven and the combinations are creative, like short rib with romesco and grilled scallions, or a trippy fluke ceviche with green mango and watermelon. In that spirit, Ortuzar passes along a side dish that’ll class up any Thanksgiving spread.

It’s an unlikely combination of sweet potatoes, goat cheese, and black olives. I would have thought the olives would skew things in a briny direction, but a little time in the oven tempers them perfectly for this dish. The goat cheese intensifies the creaminess, making for a savory, sophisticated improvement over the marshmallow indignity usually imposed on sweet potatoes this time of year.

Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Gratin with Black Olives 2 lbs sweet potatoes 3 oz butter, unsalted 1 large shallot, finely chopped ½ cup creamy fresh goat cheese 1/2 cup niçoise olives, pitted 2 tbs olive oil 4-5 basil leaves, finally chopped Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Bake the potatoes at 350˚ until they are completely cooked, soft on the inside (about 35-45 minutes, depending on size). Once they are cool to the touch, scoop out the potato and discard the skins. In a heavy-bottomed pan, over medium heat, brown the butter until it starts turning a hazelnut color and has a nutty fragrance. Add the chopped shallots and allow to cook for about a minute, being careful not to burn the butter. Pour the butter onto the sweet potato and mix. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Place the pitted olives on a small baking sheet and “roast” in a 400˚ degree oven until they are hard and brittle, about 20-25 minutes. Be careful not to burn. Once the olives are cool, chop them with a knife into small pieces, and mix with the olive oil and the basil. This could be done well in advance. Place the sweet potato mix on a baking dish, so that the sweet potato is about 1” thick. Spread the creamy goat cheese over the top, covering most of the potatoes, but leaving the edges uncovered. Bake at 400˚ for about 10-15 minutes, until the cheese and potatoes start to brown in some spots. This gratin wont brown like a traditional potato gratin–the colors of the sweet potatoes and the goat cheese will still be very present. Spoon the olives and basil over the cheese and serve. Serves 4 as a side dish.

If you’re looking for a wine pairing, ’wichcraft’s list of reds is a good place to start. They serve by the glass, half bottle, and bottle. The vintages are Familia Mayol, Malbec Lujan de Cuyo ’07, Vina Echeverria, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva ’05, Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG ’05, and Domaine du Murinais, Crozes Hermitage ’06.

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