Swiss Chard Gratin

Swiss chard is amazingly easy to grow and mild winter weather makes it a good winter crop in the South. We plant chard in the yard next to our pansies since they look almost as good as they taste. Interestingly, Swiss chard was first grown in Sicily, Italy, but a Swiss scientist was the first to name it.

Gratins originated in Provencal French cuisine and are usually prepared in a shallow dish of some kind. The word “gratin” is a derivative of the French word meaning crust or skin. A gratin is baked or cooked under an overhead grill or broiler to form a golden crust on top and is traditionally served in its baking dish. It matches wonderfully with roasted or grilled meat and fish dishes.

2 pounds fresh Swiss chard
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, crushed, and peeled
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons flour
1 cup milk
Coarse bread crumbs (we prefer Panko)
Grated Parmesan cheese

Wash and drain the leaves. Separate the green leafy parts of the chard from the thick ribs, and then trim the ribs and chop them into 1/2” pieces. Cook the ribs in a large pot of salted, boiling water for 10 minutes, then add the greens and stir with a wooden spoon until the water returns to a boil. As soon as the greens are completely limp empty the chard into a colander and refresh with cold running water. Squeeze the mass of chard to remove as much water as possible; we roll them in an old bath towel.

Preheat oven to 375°. Place dried mound of chard on a cutting board and chop it thin, then give the ball a quarter of a turn and chop thin again. In a heavy sauté pan, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil and most of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the crushed garlic and cook until sizzling but before it begins to color, add the chopped chard, salt, and pepper. Stir regularly with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes, or until the chard has lost all visible moisture. Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir well, then begin adding the milk a little at a time. Stir with each addition and wait until the chard absorbs all the milk before adding more.

Using a food processor, pulse the mixture rapidly to form a coarse puree. Pour the chard mixture into a buttered gratin dish, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and Parmesan if desired and drizzle with olive oil then bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.