As always, food ideas come to me in clusters. In Jasper, I pulled a recipe from Canadian Living for a cheesy chard gratin. When I got home and jumped around to some of my favourite food blogs to catch up on what’s been going on in everyone’s kitchens, Deb had made a chard gratin with sweet potatoes. Well, hello.
So obviously it was a sign. I picked up some chard. However. Have I mentioned the entertainment tax I paid last week? It cost me a full 8 pounds. Too much cheese, bread, butter, meat, desserts doused in whipped cream. Repeat. Have you ever heard Michael Pollan’s advice to “eat food, not too much, mostly plants”? In recent weeks (between Jasper, Toronto, Vancouver, Vegas and the Okanagan-yikes!) I’ve lived the opposite: “eat food, way too much, mostly stuff that didn’t grow out of the ground”.
And if it was a plant it was doused in thick, creamy balsamic dressing or béarnaise. Or both.
So this chard and sweet potato gratin seemed like a good idea, but I could hardly feel virtuous about a vegetable casserole made with 2 cups of heavy cream, butter and cheese, although I can’t imagine a tastier way to eat my vegetables. So I swapped the butter for oil, used milk (you could do half & half if you don’t want to lose the cream entirely) and eased up on the cheese a bit – this part I was most resistant to being stingy on – but a little went a long way. I used the end of a stump of Gruyére, and a bit of old Gouda. I also streamlined it a bit, mostly because I’m lazy and don’t much like doing dishes (or telling Mike to) and ditched the herbs (parsley and thyme). It was ridiculously good – sweet and warm and nutty from the cheese and nutmeg – and between the two of us (W would have nothing to do with it) we ate almost the whole thing. I had it for dinner and dessert.
Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin
adapted from SmittenKitchen
canola or olive oil, for cooking
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 bunches of Swiss chard, leaves and stems separated and both cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large dark-fleshed sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
light sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg
salt & pepper
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyére, old cheddar or Gouda cheese
Heat a drizzle of oil in a heavy skillet set over medium-high heat and cook the onions for a few minutes. Add the chard (if you rinse the leaves first, they should have an ideal amount of moisture still clinging to them) and sprinkle with a bit of salt and cook until the chard wilts and there is no moisture left in the pan. Transfer to a bowl.
Add the butter and flour to the skillet and whisk together to make a paste. Whisk in the milk, then add the garlic and bring to a simmer. Boil for 2 minutes, whisking; season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray. Spread half of the sweet potatoes in the baking dish. Sprinkle with nutmeg, salt, pepper, half of the greens mixture, about half the cheese and half the sauce. Layer with the rest of the potatoes, the rest of the greens, the rest of the sauce, and top it all with the rest of the cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes, then take the foil off and bake for another 15 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Serves 6.
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