Oh! I Have a Recipe for a Delicious Chard Transformation

In this column, Scout contributor and food enthusiast Maciel Pereda shares her personal recipes aimed at solving everyday cooking conundrums. Possibilities are endless, ingredients are local, and cravings are always respected. Today Maciel shares her preferred recipe for filling up on hearty winter greens…

Nothing says “I’ve willingly acknowledged winter’s arrival” quite like a rotation of brassica-heavy meals. Good ol’ sturdy, dark and leafy, rarely sexy brassicas! It’s hard to imagine robust chard or wholesome broccoli living up to the freewheeling expectations of any season other than winter. You may as well lean into the hibernal mood by inviting a blanket of broiled cheese to the party. Part of what I have always liked about this recipe is how luscious the backdrop for the chard is. Smothered in Dijon-anointed bechamel and topped with a lid of bubbling, blistered cheese is my preferred preparation (and subsequent consumption) for most cruciferous vegetables, for the record. Chard is no exception.

This recipe can also be made with other leafy members of the brassica family, such as kale or collards, but if you’ve otherwise not experimented much with chard, then I would encourage you to give it a try. The leaves have a kale-spinach flavour profile, while the stems and ribs are gently reminiscent of beet, another relative of chard. It’s a strong flavour that can hold up extremely well to “heavier” methods of cooking, like braising, stewing or gratinee!

This recipe is a simpler adaptation of Laura Calder’s “Chard Gratin” from her cookbook, French Taste – a text which hasn’t failed me yet.

Cheesy Chard Gratin
Serves 4 as a side dish

~1 lb chard (roughly 2 bunches)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole milk
¼ cup crème fraiche (can sub full-fat sour cream)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, cut in half then sliced into half-moons
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 oz grated Gruyere cheese (~1 cup)
2 oz grated Parmesan cheese (~½ cup)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prep the chard by washing it thoroughly, making sure to get in-between the leaves where dirt tends to hide. Pat dry, then start lopping off the stems from the leaves, discarding any particularly tough or undesirable ends. If any larger leaves have a particularly large ‘rib’ running through them, slice those out too, and add them to the pile of stems you’re amassing. Finely chop the stems and any large ribs; tear or chop the chard leaves into roughly bite-sized pieces. Set all of the prepped chard aside, keeping stems and leaves separate.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until foamy. Add in the flour, then whisk to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture smells nutty and is turning lightly golden-brown, approximately 2-3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk, then keep stirring and cooking until very thick (mere minutes). Remove from the heat, and stir in the crème fraiche, mustard, and garlic powder until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside while you bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Once at a boil, add in the chard stems/ribs and cook until tender (again, mere minutes), then drain and rinse under cold water. Give the same saucepan a quick wipe, pour in the olive oil, and place over medium heat. Once hot, throw in the red onions and garlic, sauteeing until softened and/or golden. Gradually add the chard (you may have to cram it in until it shrinks down) and cook until wilted and tender, approximately 3-5 minutes; remove from the heat.

Generously butter a casserole dish and sprinkle the bottom with the chard stems/ribs. Scatter over half of the Gruyere, top with the chard-onion mixture, and evenly spoon the bechamel over everything. Ideally, the bechamel should be very thick, as the chard will continue to release water during baking and thus make everything runnier in the end. Sprinkle the remaining Gruyere and all of the Parmesan overtop. Bake until bubbling, approximately 15 minutes. Broil for an additional five minutes if the top needs a little extra bronzing. Let rest for five minutes before serving piping hot.

Plot out your next Farmer’s Market brassica binge here.

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