Once the weather begins to cool down, I start thinking about turning my oven on again. I normally spend my summers up north where I don't have an oven and I never miss it, but bright cool days make me want to make casseroles and breads. While my husband was away for two weeks, I thought I would take advantage of the big, green leafy vegetables that come our way at this time of the year. I love them baked, and he more or less puts up with them.
My vegetable crisper was bursting with gorgeous Swiss chard, and searching through my recipes I came across this one for chard gratin in Alice Waters' book "Chez Panisse Vegetables." Generally the recipes in this book are quite short and simple, emphasizing the flavour of the vegetables without too much cook intervention. I will admit I added a bit of Gruyere cheese to the recipe to give it a bit more substance and an extra bit of bite resulting in a dish that was exactly what I wanted. I got a vegetable dish that came out of the oven bubbling with a lovely crunchy top. I halved the recipe and got two good meals out of it.
Although the recipe is really meant as a side dish, with the addition of the cheese, I ate it as a main course with a bit of crusty bread and a glass of red wine. It turned out to be one of those simple, satisfying meals that was wonderful on a cool autumn night.

Prep time: 10 minutes  

Total time: 45 minutes  

Yield: 4 servings

Swiss Chard Gratin


  • 2 pounds young red or green chard
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 oz grated Gruyere or Cheddar cheese (optional)
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
Cooking directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash the chard and cut off the thick ends of the stems. Parboil the chard for 1 1/2 minutes in lightly salted boiling water. Drain, squeeze out the water from the leaves, and chop them into 3/4 inch pieces. Peel the garlic and chop it very fine.
  3. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large, nonreactive skillet and add the chard. Turn the chard in the butter as it begins to wilt, add the garlic, and continue cooking slowly, uncovered, for 7 or 8 minutes, until the leaves have begun to soften. Warm the milk in a small saucepan.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over the chard and stir to distribute the flour evenly. Cook for 1 minute more and then begin to slowly add the milk, about 1/4 cup at a time. Continue adding the milk in small amounts as it is absorbed by the chard until the milk is completely incorporated.
  5. Season with a light grating of nutmeg, salt and pepper; transfer to a buttered gratin dish. The layer of chard should be about 1 inch thick. Cover evenly with the bread crumbs and bake for 35 minutes, until the crumbs have browned nicely.

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