swiss chard gratin

swiss chard gratin on
swiss chard gratin on


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.)

swiss chard gratin on

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 on

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
swiss chard gratin on

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

celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese

celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese

Those of you who read last year's post on Thanksgiving know that, until recently, I'd lost touch with this holiday. Several things led to the rift between Thanksgiving and I. I left home for college, then grad school. My grandparents passed away. I spent several years living abroad. The ties to that steadfast notion of “home” from my childhood grew thinner and thinner until one day they were gone. Eroded by time and distance and my own apathy and self-centeredness, I suppose. For a long time, I simply couldn’t be bothered to make much of an effort.

celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese

But as I wrote last year, I've begun to embrace Thanksgiving again. I am married and settled and happy, with friends and family nearby and work that I love. Beau and I are talking about enlarging our own little family. 

I spent my 20s and most of my 30s ping-ponging around the globe, looking for The Thing that would click my life flawlessly into place. I wanted the coolest job. The most enviable husband. A perfectly decorated house with a closet full of the chicest clothes. But of course I’ve finally realized things are perfect right here--in this home I’ve built for myself. It’s far from flawless, but it’s all mine. And it has nothing to do with what I own.

celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese

This is not a new tale, I know. But it makes me happy to think on it. And it makes me particularly happy to look forward to Thanksgiving again. This year, we’ll be attending Friendsgiving at our friends Alex and Kelsey’s house. There will likely be a ridiculous amount of food, far too much wine and hopefully a highly-competitive game of Celebrities afterwards. (I kill at Celebrities. And yes, I’m one of those people when it comes to boardgames. You've been warned.)

celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese
celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese

I’m thinking I might bring this Celery Root Gratin with Apple and Blue Cheese to dinner. I always feel like serving this dish is cheating a little though, since it’s virtually impossible for guests not to like it. It’s got thinly sliced potato and earthy celery root, bathed in crème fraîche and baked until meltingly tender. There’s apple for a hint of sweetness and blue cheese adds a savory, salty, umami layer. Emerging from the oven golden and bubbling, this gratin is sexy enough to serve as a vegetarian main. And of course, it plays well with turkey and stuffing and especially tart cranberry sauce. 

As I type this and think about a Thanksgiving full of friends and games and comfort food, I realize I actually can’t wait for next Thursday. This year, it seems I have a little extra something to be thankful for. 

celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese

Celery Root Gratin with Apple and Blue Cheese

  • 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pound celery root, peeled, halved and sliced ⅛ inch thick
  • 1 large russet potato (weighing about 1 lb), peeled, halved and sliced ⅛ inch thick
  • 1 large sweet-tart apple, peeled, cored, quartered and sliced ⅛ inch thick
  • Coarse salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups crème fraîche
  • 6 ounces blue cheese
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

*Notes: If you haven’t worked with celery root (also called celeriac) before, note that they have a gnarled root end that is almost always full of dirt and will have to be cut off completely. I call for a 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pound celery root to make up for lost root end. Once your celery root is cleaned, it should weigh somewhere between 14 oz and 1 lb. But a gratin is a very accommodating thing; a little more or less celery root, potato or apple won’t hurt anything.

- You can make this in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish if you like. The gratin will be thinner and there will be more of the crispy, golden-brown top to go around. This is an especially good option if you’re going to serve the gratin as part of a holiday buffet for a lot of people. I prefer to make it in a smaller roasting pan (the one pictured measures 8 x 12 inches), which yields thicker slices. 

- This dish has always been a crowd-pleaser for me and I’ve had many sworn blue cheese haters ask for seconds. If you’re serving this to anyone who claims to dislike blue cheese (!), I have two recommendations: First, use a mild, creamy and salty blue cheese rather than a dryer, more pungent one. I recommend Fourme d’Ambert or Bleu d’Auvergne. These two French blues are delicious, fairly mild and have the added bonus of being inexpensive as far as cheeses go. A second, sneakier, option is to fail to mention that the gratin contains blue cheese. A lot of people never even realize it's there.

- If you really, REALLY hate blue cheese, just substitute another sharp, salty cheese. Sharp white cheddar or an aged gruyère would be delicious.

2015_11_Celery Root Gratin-3.jpg

Preheat the oven to 400°F and generously butter a medium baking dish or roasting pan. Arrange half of the celery root, potato and apple slices in the pan. For this first layer, you don’t need to arrange the slices very artfully as they won’t be seen, just be sure to distribute them evenly over the bottom so each bite contains some celery root, apple and potato. Generously salt and pepper this layer. Stir the  crème fraîche to loosen the consistency then pour half over the top. Spread it to the edges with a flexible spatula, if necessary. Crumble half the blue cheese over the crème fraîche.

For the top layer, neatly arrange the slices of celery root, potato and apple, overlapping them as necessary to fit them in your pan. Generously salt and pepper this layer then cover with the remaining crème fraîche and blue cheese.

Bake the gratin for 20 minutes then cover with aluminum foil and bake until the potatoes are tender (they take the longest to cook through), about 30 minutes more. Check for doneness with a paring knife; you should feel almost no resistance when you insert the knife into the gratin. Take off the aluminum foil and continue to bake until the top is deep golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Remove the gratin from the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped chives just before serving. 

Makes about 6 servings.

celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese