Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Festival at California Culinary Academy

After roaming in the woods for 3 days with little sleep and hyperactivity, I came down with bronchitis. For the last 3 days, I drowned myself in organic tomato soup, pork ramen soup, and hot lemon honey tea. I also slept whenever I could with the help of Benadryl. Last night when I woke up from another nap and saw the invitation to attend Thanksgiving Festival at California Culinary Academy, I figured I was ready to go out again. I once considered enrolling in California Culinary Academy for its one year pâtisserie and baking program. I attended one of their open houses a few years ago when they were located off Civic Center BART station. Before heading out this morning, I thought that I'd double check the direction from the BART Station. I was surprised to find that the Academy has moved! It is now located at 350 Rhode Island Street, San Francisco. I decided to drive there since it is not exactly close to a BART station. It turned out that there is plenty of free all day street parking on Saturday and Sunday.

The event started out with a tour. The new facility is very modernized compare to the previous location, which was in a historical building in downtown area. After the tour, we got seated in a room for a Thanksgiving dinner cooking demonstration. As we entered the room, I got a cup of hot lemon apple cider which was perfect for my recovery from bronchitis. I wanted the recipe for that more than anything else. Chef Steve Moore demonstrated a main dish and two side dishes - Turkey Roulade with Sausage & Apple Stuffing, Sweet Potato Gratin, and Fresh Cranberry and Orange Relish.

I am not particularly into turkey, so I was more interested in the way that sweet potato gratin was made. This particular recipe uses curry powder, sour cream, and shredded extra-sharp white cheddar. I was curious what it would taste like compare to the traditional super sweet gooey Thanksgiving sweet potatoes with marshmallows. At the end of demonstration, we all got a small sample plate. You know that I ate everything. I was starving for some solid food after 3 days of soup. The sweet potato gratin worked for me. The curry powder and ground cumin gave it an Indian flair. The white cheddar gave it a semi-savory taste. It was a good balance of both sweet and savory. This is a dish that I will make because the sweet potato is ranked number one in nutrition of all vegetables by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and the recipe is not as labor intensive as the turkey dish.

Sweet Potato Gratin


4 pounds of red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams; about 3 1/4 pounds)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sour cream, divided
3 cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar (about 12 oz.)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook sweet potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 20 minutes (do not overcook). Drain well and cool. Peel sweet potatoes; cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

2. Mix curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in small bowl to blend. Completely line bottom of 9-inch-diameter spring form pan with sweet potato slices, filling in any spaces with cut-up sweet potato slices. Press down slightly. Spread 1/2 cup sour cream over sweet potatoes. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon spice mixture over sour cream. Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Repeat twice with remaining sweet potatoes, sour cream, spice mixture, and cheese. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet; bake until cheese is melted and sweet potatoes are heated through. about 40 minutes. DO AHEAD Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill. If desired, reheat in 400 degrees F. oven until hot. about 15 minutes.

3. Remove pan sides from gratin; cut into wedges. Serve gratin warm or at room temperature.

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