November 11, 2008
I think I am going to enter a "gratin" phase. I've never really been a fan, finding the cheesy, potato-y dish too starchy and synonymous with bad potluck dinners. But I found a recipe that fits the comfort-food bill and is healthy at the same time.
Who would have thought you could make a gratin out of greens? It comes from my go-to book when I am at a loss for what to do with veggies: Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food. I have gone to her for guidance in my moments of exasperation when I have too much squash or too many parsnips from the farmer and can't bear another pasta dish. This was one of those times. I had used up all the ideas I had for butternut squash and swiss chard and still we kept getting more from our farmer.
So there it was: Chard gratin, in its simplicity calling out to me to be given a chance. I did, however, tweak it to suit my needs and bulk it up a bit. I had half a butternut squash in the fridge that need to get roasted and used. So I put that in the oven on 400 and roasted it until it started to carmelize and become tender, about 45 min.
Then, finding some one or two-day old bread on the counter, I made some fresh bread crumbs. Alice and I agree that using bread crumbs made fresh is always better than the kind you buy in the store. They're more flavorful and just better looking too in their uneven and careless chunkiness. After processing them to a not too finely ground state, I baked them with a couple teaspoons of butter for about 10 min.
Then I cooked my chard alone in salted boiling water for just about 3 min. until it wilted. Drain that and set it aside until you need it.
Then I sautéed onions in some butter until translucent and soft, and added the chard with 2 tbsp of flour, 1/2 cup of milk, some salt and stirred while cooking it to let it thicken. This formed the basis of the dish. After putting that in the buttered baking dish, I scooped the squash out of its skin and layered it on top of the chard.
Then --and this is really what makes something a "gratin" --I sprinkled the bread crumbs on top and added some pats of butter to encourage browning. Temptation got the best of me and I sprinkled some freshly grated parm on top too but that was not in Alice's recipe. She's way too healthy for that.
The dish was baked for about 20-30 min. or until it looked golden on top and was bubbling just a little bit. This is one of those dishes that you bring to a party and everyone wants the recipe. You tell them you made it up with a mental nod to Ms. Waters.