Swiss chard seems to be sweeping the food blog world. Everyone is using it in everything from eggs to pasta. What is this Swiss chard phenomemon you ask? Although it is typically in season from June to August, swiss chard looks great right now in the local grocery stores and it is incredibly cheap. It is another bitter-tasting green that is usually eaten with many other ingredients surrounding it.
With my left over gigantic sweet potatoes that I had from a few weeks ago, I decided to try this recipe. In my opinion, this dish really seems to belong to Thanksgiving, with the sweet potatoes and nutmeg and all, but I found it to be a delightful springtime side dish or meal as well.
I did a little revising to this recipe for several reasons. First, I did not use enough greens. One bunch looked like plenty to me in the store, but once the greens cook, their bounty decreases. So I would add another bunch of chard. I used skim milk instead of whole milk my first time through, but I would recommend the whole milk because I felt like the sauce sort of disappeared while the gratin was baking. A thicker sauce may have more staying power. I got rid of the parsley and thyme because I wanted to actually taste the chard and sweet potatoes and not have the dish be over taken by thyme, which I feel thyme has a tendency to do. Also, and most important I believe, add more cheese. The original recipe calls for 1 ¼ cups cheese, which I felt was too little. It did not cover the layers at all, and after baking, the only cheese you could taste was the cheese sprinkled on top of the dish. I chose Emmentaler cheese because I tend to really like this cheese in general. But I think you could use any type of Swiss cheese or gruyere. I would avoid cheddar and parmesan though, just because I don’t think cheddar would necessary compliment the sweet potatoes and the parmesan does not have the right consistency for melting in this gratin.
Once the gratin is prepared you have this pretty multi-colored dish, and once it is cooked, the golden top accentuates the purples, oranges and greens which have now taken on deeper tones.
The sweet potato definitely steals the show in regards to flavor. The combination of the sweet potato, greens and cheese make the dish a comfort food. I also enjoyed finding the pops of Swiss cheese throughout.
Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin (adapted from SmittenKitchen)
1/4 cup butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 bunches Swiss chard
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups whole milk
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flour
2 medium red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups coarsely grated Emmentaler cheese (or Swiss cheese or Gruyere)
Preheat oven to 400°F. First, separate leaves and stems of the chard. Cut leaves and stems into 1 inch pieces. Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy pot over moderately low heat until softened. Add chard stems, pinch of nutmeg, and salt and pepper and cook until tender. Turn heat to medium-high, and add the leaves and cook until wilted. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Place greens in a colander to drain. Make sure to press as much liquid out of the leaves as possible to avoid sogginess.
Peel the sweet potatoes and then cut into slender 1/8 inch thick rounds. Then, place milk and garlic in small saucepan and bring to simmer. Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat and stir in flour, and whisk for one minute. This is the roux, as my Husband always loves to point out. Add the milk/garlic and continue to whisk for about 2-3 minutes, until thickened.
Butter a deep baking dish. I used a glass rectangle Pyrex dish. Spread half of sweet potatoes in the prepared baking dish. Add a ½ cup of the cheese. Spread half of the greens mixture over the cheese. Again add a ½ cup of the cheese over the greens. Pour half of the sauce over the layers. Then spread the remaining sweet potatoes, ½ cup cheese, and remaining greens. Pour remaining sauce over those new layers. Add ½ cup cheese to top.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil, but be careful to not press the foil down near the cheese or it will cook to the foil. Bake for 1 hour, until most liquid id absorbed, and then cook another 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.