|Gratin of Swiss Chard|
|Right Food for the Season - Early Winter|
|Written by R. Patrick Kent|
The funny thing about cooking for a family holiday is that once a dish is a "hit" it becomes hard NOT to bring it each year. Everyone looks forward to it. My aunt made a coconut cream pie on a whim one Thanksgiving when I was about 7 years old and she's been making it now for the last 30 years.
And so it is with this following recipe. I first made a gratin of Swiss chard several years ago after reading an article in a food magazine that had suggested such a preparation. Now not a year goes by that I'm not asked to bring "the gratin" to Thanksgiving or Christmas. It has also become a sort of tradition for me to swing by the farm stand and clean them out of all the chard I can lay my hands on.
Swiss chard was one of those vegetables that I passed by before I knew what to do with it. Once I learned to cook it properly and could appreciate it, I grew to love it. The beauty of chard is that it's like two vegetables in one - the leaves and the stalks - which makes for wonderful textural variety. Related to beets, chard is a bit like hearty spinach with delicate celery attached. This preparation really takes advantage of the subtle difference in flavor in the two parts of the plant.
Medium sized Gratin dish
3 - 4 large bunches of Swiss chard (green or colored)
Separate the leaves and stalks and wash them. Trim away any unappetizing spots. Cut the large leaves in half and then chop each 1/2 into 5 to 6 pieces. Let them dry while you cut the stalks into 2-inch "celery sticks." Boil salted water in the large pot, add the bay leaf and blanche the stalks for 3 - 5 minutes. Rinse under cold water and set aside. Sauté the leaves in 3 or 4 batches using 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a 1/2 of a minced garlic clove. Salt and pepper and add a pinch of cayenne. Put the leaves in the gratin dish and spread the stalks around on top. In the small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Add the milk and whisk constantly until it thickens and can coat the back of a spoon. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste. Pour the béchamel over the chard as evenly as possible. Pre-heat the oven to 400. Spread the gruyere over the top of the gratin and bake in the oven for about 15 - 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling.