Individual Swiss Chard Gratins
High-quality Gruyère cheese has a creamy, nutty taste and it melts beautifully. Here, it gilds a rich white sauce that is mixed with mildly bitter Swiss chard, then baked into individual casseroles. A crisp topping of buttery, Parmigiano-flecked bread crumbs adds an appealing crunch.
- Unsalted butter for ramekins, plus 3 Tbs.
- 1/2 tsp. minced fresh marjoram
- 1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 2 tsp. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 bunches Swiss chard
- 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 1/2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 1/2 oz. Swiss Gruyère or French Comté cheese, shredded
Preheat an oven to 400°F. Butter four 3/4-cup ramekins.
In a bowl, combine the marjoram, thyme, bread crumbs, Parmigiano-Reggiano and a pinch each of salt and pepper and toss well. In a small saucepan, melt 1 Tbs. of the butter, then drizzle it over the crumb mixture and stir to mix well. Set aside.
Strip the chard leaves from the stems and tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. Cut off and discard the tough bottoms of the stems, then finely mince enough of the remaining stems to measure 1/2 cup.
In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the shallots, chard stems and a pinch of salt and sauté until the shallots are soft and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the chard leaves and stir to combine. Cover the pan and cook until the leaves just begin to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to medium and cook until the leaves are wilted and the liquid evaporates, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 Tbs. butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cream, bring to a boil and cook until smooth. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and add the nutmeg and a pinch each of salt and pepper.
Stir in the Gruyère until smooth, then stir in the chard mixture. Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared ramekins and sprinkle the herbed bread crumbs over the top. Bake until the crumbs are lightly browned and the chard is warm and bubbling, 15 to 17 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Vegetables, by Jodi Liano (Oxmoor House, 2008).