Individual Swiss chard gratins with garlic cream
- 11⁄2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the dishes
- 2⁄3 cup/45 g fresh bread crumbs
- 1⁄3 cup/40 g plus 1 tbsp coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
- Kosher salt
- 23⁄4 lb/1.3 kg (about 3 bunches) Swiss chard (I like Bright Lights or Rainbow variety), washed and stemmed
- 4 large garlic cloves, well smashed and peeled
- 3⁄4 cup/180 ml whole milk
- 1⁄2 cup/120 ml heavy cream
- 11⁄2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1⁄8 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C/gas 5. Position a rack in the upper third of theoven. Rub a little butter all over the inside of four 8- to 10-oz/240- to 300-ml custard cups or other 1-cup/240-ml ovenproof baking dishes. For easier baking, put the dishes on a small, rimmed heavy-duty baking sheet.
2. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, 1 tbsp of the Parmigiano, the parsley (if using), 1 tsp of the olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Mix well and set aside.
3. Put a large colander in your sink or over a bowl. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tsp of the olive oil over medium heat. Add half of the Swiss chard and 1/4 tsp salt.
Let the chard sit for 1 minute, then begin flipping it with tongs, moving the wilted chard from the bottom to the top of the raw chard so that all the leaves get some contact with the pan. Stir and flip until all the leaves have wilted, about 2 minutes.
Transfer the chard to the colander and repeat with the remaining chard, adding 1 tsp of the olive oil and another 1/4 tsp salt.
4. Let all the chard drain and cool in the colander for several minutes. When cool, transfer it to a cutting board, spread it out, and chop it coarsely. (Smaller pieces of chard are nicer in the finished gratin, but it’s totally up to you how much you want to chop it.) Leave the chopped chard on the cutting board until you need it. It will continue to steam off a bit of moisture.
5. In a medium saucepan, combine the garlic, milk, and cream and bring to a boil. (Watch the liquids carefully so that they do not boil over.) Immediately remove the pan from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes to allow the garlic to infuse the cream.
While the cream is sitting, stir it occasionally with a silicone spatula to prevent a skin from forming.
6. In another medium saucepan (nonstick works well), melt the the 1 1/2 tbsp butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk until well blended. (Either a flat whisk or a small silicone whisk will work best here. Be sure to whisk in the seam of the pan.) Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.
7. With a fork, remove most of the smashed garlic from the milk-cream mixture, pushing the pieces against the side of the pot to squeeze out all the flavorful liquid. (Don’t worry if any small pieces remain in the liquid.) Season the liquid with 1/2 tsp salt, the balsamic vinegar, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir well.
8. Return the pan with the flour-butter mixture to medium-low heat and add the milk-cream mixture to it in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Raise the heat to medium and continue to whisk constantly. The sauce will begin to thicken up. As soon as bubbles start appearing, whisk constantly for just about 1 minute more and then remove the pan from the heat. The sauce should have a velvety smooth texture and be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but still fall off the whisk in a stream.
9. Transfer the chopped chard to a large heatproof (stainless-steel) mixing bowl.
Pour and scrape all the cream sauce over the chard and mix thoroughly. Add the remaining 1/3 cup/40 g Parmigiano and stir to incorporate. Divide the creamy chard mixture evenly among the 4 prepared cups and top each with the bread crumb mixture.
10. Bake in the preheated oven until the bread crumbs are lightly browned and the mixture is bubbling, 18 minutes. Let sit for a couple minutes and serve warm.
Excerpted from The Fresh & Green Table: Delicious Ideas for Bringing Vegetables Into Every Meal by Susie Middleton. Copyright © 2012 by Chronicle Books. Excerpted by permission of Chronicle Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.