Swiss Chard Gratin
March 11, 2008
When I tell you that this Swiss Chard Gratin was seriously delicious, I won’t blame you for rolling your eyes. I know what you’re thinking: what isn’t delicious in gratin form? I mean, Kevin might even eat mushrooms if I bathed them in bechamel and baked them under a crusty layer of golden, cheesy read crumbs. And that is saying something.
And you’re right. I was expecting this gratin to be good, because I agree that gratins, by definition, are good. But this was even better than I expected. It struck the perfect balance of being creamy and luxe without feeling overly rich and decadent. And it highlighted the flavor of its main components—swiss chard and spinach—rather than masking them. And the gruyere-and-herb-laced bread crumb topping was crunchy, lending a sharp contrast in texture to the silky greens that laid beneath.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
My only wee quibble is that it was a bit watery, which was entirely my fault. I completely (and inadvertently) skipped the step of the recipe that asks you to drain the sauteed greens. Whoops. I think I was just sick of the greens at that point as there was a lot of them (see the photo of the overflowing pots of chard, above; a bit Strega Nona, right?). But aside from that oversight, the dish came out great. And it made for a wonderful side to round out my loose take on steak frites (brisket and baked pommes frites) at Maggie’s Bon Voyage Soiree on Saturday night.
Swiss Chard Gratin
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs
3 oz Tomme de Savoie or Gruyère cheese, grated (1 cup)
1 garlic clove, halved lengthwise, germ removed if green, and garlic finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped mixed fresh herbs (preferably chives, tarragon, and flat-leaf parsley)
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 lb Swiss chard, leaves and stems separated and both cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb spinach, coarse stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
Melt 2 tablespoons butter and toss with bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, herbs, half of nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.
Boil broth in a small saucepan until reduced by half. Add cream and keep warm.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, whisking, 1 minute, then whisk in broth mixture and boil, whisking, 1 minute. Season sauce with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cook onion in remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a wide 8-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add chard stems, remaining nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until vegetables are tender but not browned, about 8 minutes.
Increase heat to moderately high and add chard leaves and spinach by large handfuls, stirring, until all greens are wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer vegetables to a colander to drain well and press out liquid with back of a large spoon. Toss vegetables with cream sauce and transfer to a buttered 12-inch oval gratin or 2-quart shallow baking dish, spreading evenly.
Top vegetables with bread crumbs and bake in middle of oven until bubbling and topping is golden, about 20 minutes.
Kristin’s Note: I made 1.5 times the recipe and it fit nicely in a 9 x 13 pan. It comfortably served 14 people as a side dish.