This was my first time making a tian recipe. I’ve seen them in cookbooks, on menus at restaurants and all over the internet so I’ve been curious about them for quite some time. This recipe is one you will come back to over and over again because of its simplicity and it also happens to yield a gorgeous presentation. It involves slicing the sweet potatoes very thin (I highly suggest using a mandoline for even slices- this is the mandoline I have used for years and I absolutely love it) then placing the sweet potatoes in a well oiled baking dish with some spices and herbs of your choice. The end result is absolutely delicious- tender roasted sweet potatoes packed with a whole lot of flavor. You’ll appreciate the naturally sweet flavor without any sugar added yet feel free to play around with the elements of this recipe by adding any spices and/or herbs you desire in place of what I’ve used here.
The baking dish you choose can elevate the visual impact of this meal as it makes a gorgeous presentation for dinner parties as well as simple weeknight dinners. I’m using this basic enameled cast iron casserole dish that I enjoy using in the oven.
One tip I do want to mention here is that I’m known for buying a bunch of sweet potatoes and letting them sit on my countertop for awhile until I realize I need to use them up- that’s definitely not the way to go because I’ve found that using sweet potatoes that have been sitting around for awhile become dry and flavorless. At the food store, be sure to purchase sweet potatoes that are firm with no cuts or bruises and do your best to use them up within a week of purchasing for optimum flavor.
In terms of what sweet potatoes to buy, I chose a variety of sweet potatoes such as Japanese (purple sweet potatoes) and boniato (white sweet potatoes) along with traditional orange sweet potatoes because I love the way these varieties taste. The purple sweet potatoes have a somewhat floral note to them while the white sweet potatoes always seem more crisp and mild in flavor compared to their orange cousins. No matter what variety you choose, your tian will look beautiful and unique to you. Experiment with what’s in your food store and enjoy the meditative process of slicing and stacking.
Lastly, this is the pastry brush I use for coating the sweet potatoes to ensure the oil is evenly distributed.
This recipe is ideal for a weeknight meal or as a side dish for entertaining. It's hearty and full of natural sweetness and flavor. Be sure to keep the stacked slices of sweet potatoes tightly packed as you place them in the baking dish so they do not bend or fold. This will ensure even baking.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a large baking dish with olive oil and set aside.
Using a mandoline, thinly slice the sweet potatoes and stack them vertically in a bowl or measuring cup until you're ready to transfer them to the prepared baking dish. When the slicing is complete, transfer the stacks of sweet potatoes into the baking dish starting with the outside and working your way inside. If you're using a variety of colors of sweet potatoes, you may want to alternate them as I have in the photos above.
In a small bowl, combine the oil with the cayenne pepper, ginger and cumin. Use a brush to brush the sweet potatoes so the oil seeps down into the cracks in between each potato. Transfer to the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are very tender. Check on the sweet potatoes half way through to ensure they are not drying out. Brush more oil onto the sweet potatoes, as needed.
Meanwhile toast the sesame seeds in a large dry skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Remove the tian from the oven; set aside for 5 minutes to cool before serving. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and caraway seeds. Add a pinch of sea salt and pepper, to taste and garnish with fresh oregano. Serve warm.
Store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Bring to room temperature before serving.
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