This week I’m dropping in with an easy little recipe for Swiss chard gratin. Now that Halloween is behind us, my thoughts are turning to Thanksgiving dinner and which dishes will make the cut. I haven’t decided if I’ll roast a turkey. Or maybe a goose? A glazed ham never disappoints. I’ve even been toying with the idea of a crown roast or salt-crusted rack of lamb or some other dramatic dish.
For those of you who look forward to turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce all year, this must sound like nothing short of heresy. But alas, we have no set Thanksgiving ritual in my family. For most of the 90s, for example, we chose a different country or region each year and fashioned our holiday feast around its cuisine. (Ireland was my favorite, if you’re curious. Followed by Cajun.)
But back to this gratin. This is the only dish that’s Thanksgiving 2016 approved thus far. I made it for a cooking class I taught during my Paris culinary retreat in September and it struck me then what a wonderful holiday dish it would make. I served it alongside chicken with roasted turnips and grapes (recipe coming soon) and it was the perfect creamy foil for those earthy-sweet flavors.
So to all the Thanksgiving purists: This gratin may not be traditional, but I’m thinking it will do your turkey and cranberry sauce proud.
Swiss Chard Gratin
- 1 large bunch (about 1 1/2 pounds) white-stemmed Swiss chard
- Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- 2 shallots, minced (should yield about 1/4 cup)
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
- Freshly-grated nutmeg (optional)
- 1/2 cup grated aged Comté or Gruyère cheese
Trim the stems from the chard, discarding any that are wilted. If any stems seem tough, peel them with a vegetable peeler to remove the strings. Bring a large pot of generously salted water (it should taste like the ocean) to a boil. Cut the chard stems crosswise into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Coarsely tear the green tops. Drop the stems into the boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the green tops and continue to cook until the tops are wilted and the stems are just tender, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Set a colander over a large bowl or pot. Drain the chard well, pressing on it with a flexible spatula or ladle to get out as much water as possible. Reserve the cooking liquid.
While the chard is cooking, generously butter a gratin dish. Set aside.
Meanwhile, make the bechamel: Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, but not browned. Stir the flour into the shallots and cook for about about one minute, stirring constantly, to cook out the raw flavor. Measure out one cup of the chard cooking liquid and add it to the pan. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens. Add the crème fraîche and bring just back to a boil. Remove from the heat. Season to taste with lemon juice and nutmeg.
Arrange the drained chard over the bottom of the gratin dish. Pour the bechamel over the chard, sprinkle the cheese over the top and heat under the broiler until golden brown and bubbling. Set aside to rest for a few minutes before serving.
Recipe adapted from Anne Willan, The Country Cooking of France