Thursday, 22 December 2011

Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin: Hearty and Heartwarming, and Mildly Healthy

Made this little number the other night to serve with pork tenderloin. It was a really good, cozy dish...but I gotta say off the top that it was a bit of a multi-pronged, significant-pot-dirtying kind of dish. But it was so bubbly and cheesy and a little bit crispy that I had to share (also, it's oddly delicious cold, right out of the casserole dish, say, this morning or something). Just block off a bit of time and the inclination and a layered dish of healthful ingredients with lots of cheese will be your reward. Serve it with something that's easy and no-fuss.

Chard, de-stemmed.
It's so pretty, the red, no?
I'm totally avoiding apologizing for not posting more in the last month, because I fear that my apologies for not posting will become less and less meaningful the more often I write them. So, I'll spare you. I think about posting in the blog a lot. Like, daily. But what good does that do for anyone. Diddly squat. But I digress.

Chard is nice in this dish, but it would also work with spinach, or kale. As for the sweet potato element, one could easily replace that with regular potatoes, if one wished. One can do many things of one's own choosing, really.

Without further ado...(remember, I said it was a bit of a pot-dirtying recipe)...

Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen,

1 bunch of chard, de-stemmed, with stalks       (chard is a beautiful thing - and the stalks are just as good as the leaves - so slice them right out of the leaf, and then dice them.  Then I just pulled apart the leaves into big chunks.)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of milk
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 cup of grated cheese      (the original recipe called for Gruyere, and though at one point I hope to be the kind of woman who just has Gruyere in her fridge, I'm not there yet. I used a combo of old cheddar and parmesan.)
1 pound or so of sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
a big sprig of thyme, or rosemary       (feel free to use dried, but don't skip it, it's a good addition)
salt, pepper
butter or oil for frying chard

First, deal with the chard. Saute the onion in a some butter or oil, until it's softened - about 5 minutes or so. Then throw in the diced chard stalks, and saute those for a few minutes to soften. Then in go the leaves, until they are thoroughly wilted and cooked down. Now this is an important step - you need to squeeze this chard action as dry as you possible can. Just use your hands. And do it longer than you think you need to - the gratin will be too wet if you don't. Having said that, it will be wet because of delicious things like melting cheese and butter, so, you know.

Without natural light, I have no game when it comes
to taking pictures.  
Heat the 1 cup of milk in a small pot with the big sprig of thyme or rosemary in it, and the minced garlic. Don't let it boil, just heat it up nice.  In a medium-sized pan, melt your tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Once it's melted, add in your tablespoon of flour, and whisking the shit out of it to avoid lumpiness. You just made a roux! Congratulate yourself. Then slowly pour the heated milk (remove the sprig if you used one) into the butter and flour (I mean the roux!) and continue whisking over low heat, and remove once you've got a mildly runny pasty kind of texture. Okay, that's done.

Now get a deep baking dish. The recipe asks for a 9 X 13 baking dish but I'll be honest with you, I have no conceptual idea what size that actually is. I just used a big-ish, round, deep pyrex dish. Preheat your over to 400 degrees F. Layer half the sweet potatoes on the bottom, then 1/3 of the cheese, and then half the greens. Salt and pepper it up, then pour half your milky roux over all that. Repeat the process, and finish with the last third of the cheese.

Soooo good. Seriously, so good. It's an ultimate winter dish.

Pop her in the oven for about an hour, covering with foil if you're getting concerned about advanced browning of the top of the gratin. Let it sit for ten minutes before dishing it up. It's really fantastic, and worth the effort. A very special side dish.  

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